Toward a Galactic Common Good: Space Exploration Ethics
The field of Astroethics addresses moral and societal issues arising out of speculation regarding terrestrial contact with extraterrestrial life in both its intelligent and non-intelligent forms. This chapter tackles 15 ethical quandaries, 12 of which are associated with space exploration within the solar system plus 3 with exoplanet communication. Within our solar ghetto, scientists expect at best to find only microbial life, leaving intelligent life to exoplanets elsewhere in our galaxy. The intra-solar system quandaries are these: (1) What does planetary protection mean? (2) Does microbial life have intrinsic value? (3) Should space explorers invoke the Precautionary Principle? (4) Should we clean up our space junk? (5) What should we do about satellite surveillance? (6) Should we weaponize space? (7) Should scientific research take priority over commercial space ventures? (8) Should we terraform Mars? (9) Should we colonize Mars? (10) Should we prepare for bombardment of Earth by asteroids? (11) Should we rely upon a single planetary community of moral deliberation? (12) Should we pursue the good of the galactic commons? The extra-solar quandaries deal with three degrees of extraterrestrial intelligent creatures: (13) those with less intelligence than us Homo sapiens, (14) our Extraterrestrial Intelligent creatures (ETI) peers in intelligence, and (15) ETI who are superior to us in intelligence. To each quandary we ask: What is our terrestrial moral responsibility toward extraterrestrial life? Our answer is grounded in an appeal to a galactic common good.