The Legacy of NASA’s Ingenuity

After three successful years, the Mars helicopter Ingenuity has just taken its last flight. During a landing, a brief loss of communication with the chopper occurred, only for the vehicle to resume communications the next day with a damaged rotor blade. Being the first helicopter to operate on another planet, Ingenuity is a trailblazer in more ways than one. However, budgetary constraints leave the future of additional Marscopter missions up in the air.

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NASA’s “Asteroid Autumn” Reveals the Future of the Space Industry

This “Asteroid Autumn,” NASA has made significant steps forward in three of their asteroid-focused space missions. On September 24, 2023, OSIRIS-REx successfully returned an estimated half-pound sample of asteroid rock. Psyche, launched on October 13, will travel out to examine the metal-rich asteroid 16-Psyche. Finally, on November 1, Lucy flew by her first asteroid out of the twelve along her planned trajectory. These missions highlight the growing interest in identifying and collecting the resources found in space. The economic and political advantages gained from access to space resources will shape the future of the space industry.

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Not My Space Administration

Microbial and mechanical contamination of other planets is an ethical risk versus reward battle that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) grapples with each mission. Humankind strives to explore and discover, but potentially at the expense of ecosystems apart from our own. Humanity must evaluate the consequences of planetary contamination, as we are the only known species with access to the external universe. There is an imminent responsibility to preserve and protect outer worlds and be noble in our quest in conquering the final frontier.

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Utilitarian Rights-based Arguments for Planetary Protection

Protecting solar system bodies from contamination by Earth life has been an active research topic since the start of the space race. The prospect of finding and possibly contaminating extraterrestrial life has caused the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) to set technical standards for planetary protection; planetary protection is essential to preserve humanity’s ability to study other worlds in their natural states, to avoid contamination that would obscure the ability to find life elsewhere, and to ensure that Earth’s biosphere is protected from alien life. Until recently, these utilitarian considerations have been sufficient in addressing all ethical concerns while exploring outer space. However, the prospect of terraforming Mars has sparked a debate over the ethical implications of destroying possible alien organisms. This paper provides a historical background regarding the ethical considerations in human space exploration and argues that the utilitarian considerations provided by the NASA Office of Planetary Protection are sufficient for answering ethical questions regarding planetary protection within the solar system.

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