Environmental Humanities and Outer Space

Over the last decades, space exploration to distant planetary bodies significantly contributed to our understanding of the Universe, as well as our own planet. It paved way to the ambitious effort of long-term human space spaceflight and exploration.

11/15/2018 | 2:00 PM

The International Space Station in low Earth orbit, extra-terrestrial habitation and a desire to set foot on Mars all result from our longing to understand more and extent the human footprint beyond Earth. However, humankind’s desire to move out of the cradle exceeds the mindset of engineers and planetary scientists and also includes social, cultural, ethical and economic perspectives and implications. Therefore, space exploration and related activities are increasingly witnessing the contribution of the humanities, art related disciplines and the social sciences. The entering of these disciplines within the space era is tremendously important because they help us to critically question the past and the future of space endeavors from a different point of angle.

For instance, detecting the presence of life in other planets will pose huge philosophical problems when considering space exploration. Are humans only allowed to explore and settle if there is no indication for indigenous life? While this question is a valuable ethical, philosophical and religious debate, it should be also addressed from an anthropogenic and biocentric perspective.

Dr. Michael Waltemathe is a theologian at Ruhr with a special interest in space exploration and religion, ethical and philosophical aspects of human space exploration, science and technology studies. Waltemathe will speak about the biocentric perspective and biodiversity in space exploration.

Professor Bernard Foing is a scientist at the European Space Agency (ESA) and Executive Director of the International Lunar Exploration Working Group. He is a strong advocate for a future settlement on the Moon or Mars and international collaboration among space agencies and non-governmental commercial entities. Foing will provide a talk about MoonMars Villages for exploration, utilization and settlements: bridging science, technology and humanities.

Dr. Daniel Michalik spent the year 2017 at the Geographic South Pole. He worked there as the on-site support astronomer for a large Cosmic Microwave Background telescope. The South Pole station operates in complete physical isolation during the eight months of winter season. Beyond the important science objectives, an isolated manned mission brings along interesting interpersonal dynamics that should be considered in long term human space exploration to one of our targeted objects for the future, the Moon, Mars, asteroids, Phobos or Deimos.

Marie-Luise Heuser from the Institute of Space Systems will consider space travel as a technical company. This concept has developed from a long history of philosophical
ideas as well as literary and artistic representations. Essential milestones were the Renaissance philosophy, the philosophy of German idealism, Romanticism and the culture of the Weimar Republic.


14.00 Introduction EHC Environmental Humanities and Outer Space

14.15 Bernard Foing- “MoonMars Villages for Exploration, Utilization and Settlements: Bridging Science, Technology and Humanities”

14.45 Daniel Michalik- “Exploring the South Pole: Isolation and Interpersonal Dynamics as Analogue for Long-term Space Travel”’

15.15 Break

15.30 Michael Waltemathe – “Biocentric Perspectives and Biodiversity in Space Exploration”

16.00 Marie-Luise Heuser – “Space Travel with the Wings of the Spirit. The History of Space Philosophy”

16.30 -17.00 General Discussion

17.00-18.00 Drinks

On 16 November, we organize an excursion to ESTEC in Noordwijk.