The Chatter Podcast: Ethical Space Exploration with Lucianne Walkowicz

By David Priess
Thursday, March 31, 2022, 10:49 AM

This week, Shane Harris speaks to Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer and astrobiologist at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and co-founder of the JustSpace Alliance and studies the ethics of space exploration.

This was a wide-ranging conversation about the moral and ethical dimensions of humanity’s search for life in the universe and exploration of other planets. We often think about what cities on the moon or Mars might look like, but how should humans live on those worlds and interact with their new environments? For instance, what if human visitors find microbes living in Martian water but also need that water as a source of nourishment? Do we kill the organisms living in it, which might also be the first evidence of life on other planets?

Walkowicz also talked about the risks and rewards of sending out signals of human life on Earth in the hope that distant species might discover it. Should we try to make contact in order to find more intelligent life forms we can learn from, or do we risk opening ourselves to conquest by alerting potentially hostile species to our existence?

Chatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo with engineering assistance from Ian Enright.

Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.

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Lucianne Walkowicz’s website

The JustSpace Alliance 

The SETI Institute

Movies discussed included Contact (1997) and Arrival (2016)