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Space Exploration: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding Norms and Ethics in Space

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Abstract: Space exploration is a multifaceted topic, traversing diverse disciplines from physics and engineering to biology, philosophy and law. Space is acknowledged as a physical environment, a tool and a concept. As a fundamental idea, outer space also reflects the inner reaches and potential of human imagination, innovation, and possibility. It reveals itself on the individual level as well as in myth, culture, policy and law. Space exploration therefore requires multidisciplinary perspectives and contributions. While space technologies (e.g. rockets, launches and satellites) are often publicized in the media as celebrated activities, equally important to space exploration are the sciences: astronomy, planetary science, astrobiology and astrochemistry, among others. Likewise, space policy serves to provide a grand vision while space law solidifies those values to enact a framework for regulating actors and activities in space. Ethics, further serves as a lynchpin, a foundation for understanding why we care to explore the cosmos and prudence in foreseeing the implications of our actions. Taken together, these disciplines explore various aspects of the same pertinent questions: why should we care about space? as well as, how do we get there and…what then?

This talk addresses some of the practical applications and implications of exploration, discovery and progress in outer space. Applying an interdisciplinary approach to space exploration, whether through the lens of a telescope or sending robotic and human envoys to extraterrestrial environments, we can connect the underlying dots between space science, technology, law and ethics, rendering a more holistic understanding of humanity and space exploration.

Bio: Sara M. Langston, Esq., JD, LL.M., PhD, is an aerospace lawyer, ethicist, educator and Army veteran with a technical military aviation background. As a legal consultant she provides strategic advice to government agencies and private industry in the US and Europe on new and forward-looking science/technologies, applications for space exploration and commercial human spaceflight. Dr. Langston holds a Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Science; J.D. with specialization in Public International Law; LL.M. (Adv.) in Air and Space Law; B.S. in Politics and History; and a Space Studies Certificate in Physical Sciences from the International Space University. She is a member of the International Institute of Space Law, Royal Aeronautical Society, and is an active member of the New York and District of Columbia Bars.

This talk is part of the Institute of Astronomy Extra Talks series.

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