Modifying the Environment or Human Nature? What is the Right Choice for Space Travel and Mars Colonisation?

NanoEthics 17 (1):1-13 (2023)
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Abstract

As space travel and intentions to colonise other planets are becoming the norm in public debate and scholarship, we must also confront the technical and survival challenges that emerge from these hostile environments. This paper aims to evaluate the various arguments proposed to meet the challenges of human space travel and extraterrestrial planetary colonisation. In particular, two primary solutions have been present in the literature as the most straightforward solutions to the rigours of extraterrestrial survival and flourishing: (1) geoengineering, where the environment is modified to become hospitable to its inhabitants, and (2) human (bio)enhancement where the genetic heritage of humans is modified to make them more resilient to the difficulties they may encounter as well as to permit them to thrive in non-terrestrial environments. Both positions have strong arguments supporting them but also severe philosophical and practical drawbacks when exposed to different circumstances. This paper aims to show that a principled stance where one position is accepted wholesale necessarily comes at the opportunity cost of the other where the other might be better suited, practically and morally. This paper concludes that case-by-case evaluations of the solutions to space travel and extraterrestrial colonisation are necessary to ensure moral congruency and the survival and flourishing of astronauts now and into the future.

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Steven Umbrello
Institute For Ethics And Emerging Technology

References found in this work

Unfit for the Future: The Need for Moral Enhancement.Ingmar Persson & Julian Savulescu - 2012 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK. Edited by Julian Savulescu.
The Future of Human Nature.Jürgen Habermas - 2003 - Cambridge, UK: Polity. Edited by Jürgen Habermas.
The Future of Human Nature.Jürgen Habermas - 2003 - Cambridge, UK: Polity. Edited by Jürgen Habermas.

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