September 7, 2018
Space Debates
The Great Hall

Reflection  | PodcastPhotos

As part of the Southwest Astronomy Festival, A.P.E.X. Events Presents Space Debates!
Topics will include:

  • Should humans go to Mars?
  • Should we clean up space junk?
  • Should we continue active SETI?

Press Release - A.P.E.X. Events: Space Debates in Collaboration with the Southwest Astronomy Festival

Event Reflection

by Billy Clouse

Kicking off the Southwest Astronomy Festival, A.P.E.X. Events hosted "Space Debates," which put together a panel of six contributors, including SUU alumni, members of the Master of Public Administration program and a NASA Ambassador.

SUU's Angela Pool-Funai moderated the discussion, which featured three main topics, the first of which was whether or not we should go to Mars.

For the most part, the panel agreed that if we do go to the Red Planet, we first have to work out a number of problems, most of them associated with the lack of gravity and atmosphere. Matthew Smith, who is pursuing his MPA after graduating with a degree in philosophy and history, said the human story is one of conquering our planet, not coexisting with it, and it's not too far outside of the realm of possibility that we could destroy Mars while trying to overcome its challenges.

However, members of the panel pointed out that scientists can use Mars to study the long-term effects of climate change, but the panel agreed that a privately-funded, commercial venture is not the way to go. After some heated back-and-forth debate about the entanglement of science and politics, the group moved to the next topic, which was about space junk.

Currently, hundreds of millions of pieces of debris orbit the planet, which could have disastrous effects on satellites and the International Space Station, as well as make it increasingly difficult and dangerous to try leave the Earth.

Panelists discussed various ways scientists are trying to solve the problem, from harpooning dead satellites to space lasers. Although the latter is the cheapest and most efficient alternative, given the history of human civilization, many fear that this technology could quickly become weaponized.

Following this topic, the discussion shifted to Active SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). For years, scientists have been sending messages into space in an attempt to contact other life forms, and it's now possible for anyone to pay to send out a message.

Many issues were debated, including the possibility that other intelligent life might communicate in ways other than writing or speech, and that it could severely harm our perception of our own role in the universe if we discover we're not alone.

Following the Friday debate, the Southwest Astronomy Festival continued with events throughout the weekend.


Audio Transcript