Sunday, February 21, 2010: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Room 11B (San Diego Convention Center)Astrobiology encompasses space exploration and research across diverse science fields -- using interdisciplinary science and technology to study the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe -- from the molecular level to the cosmos. As the field of astrobiology discovers more about cosmic processes, evolutionary pathways, habitability, and the very nature of life, it also raises unusual questions in ethical, legal, and societal areas. With ambitious plans for space missions extending in distance, duration and complexity, a host of concerns have arisen in nonscience areas, including environmental management and planetary protection, private versus public sector actions, treaty provisions, and even the significance of discovering extraterrestrial life. This panel presents an overview of the issues ahead and provides details on recent efforts to bridge science and societal perspectives by integrating astrobiologists, engineers, lawyers, ethicists, theologians, and social scientists in focused deliberations. Policies and actions must surely be informed by up-to-date science on Earth and beyond -- likewise, it is appropriate to consider how nonscientific information and perspectives can contribute to deliberations about our collective futures.
Margaret Race, SETI Institute
Seth Shostak, SETI Institute
John Rummel, East Carolina University