Friday, August 14, 2009

Scientist tackles ethics of space travel

Artist rendering of simulated Mars mission, courtesy NASA

Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Emory Center for Ethics and the first chief bioethicist for NASA, tells the New York Times:

"Imagine you had a severely injured astronaut on the surface of Mars — or a dead body. American soldiers will put themselves at great risk to retrieve a dead body. On Mars, you have a different situation. You might be endangering the entire mission by trying to retrieve the body. In that case, you might recommend that it be left behind, even if that is against our ethical traditions.

"Or what do you do if someone has a psychotic episode while in space?

"I’ve written that there has to be medication and restraints on the craft. If you have to restrain the person for a long period of time, you have to do it. You can’t thank the person for their service to the country and put them out into space. You can’t medicate them to insensibility for a year and a half. You have to find a reasonable way to manage the situation."

Read the full interview with Wolpe in the New York Times.

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