Skip to main content


ASP2021: A Virtual Conference

ASP2021: A Virtual Conference
Preliminary Schedule

Click here for the Schedule-at-a-Glance

    10:50 AM - 11:40 AM: Concurrent Session 6C: 10:50 am PST (1:50 pm EST) - Oral Presentations
    Teaching Philosophy and Science of Space Exploration
    Conference Strand: Advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Access & Social Justice
    Serife Tekin, University of Texas at San Antonio
    Carmen Fies, University Of Texas At San Antonio
    Chris Packham, University Of Texas At San Antonio
    Abstract of Session/Presentation: There are periods of time in humanity when a true inflection point in advancement occurs. Consider the industrial revolution, the space race, or the dawn of the information age. It is not an exaggeration to argue that we are entering another such period, that of the rapid exploration of nearby and outer space. NASA is planning a return to the Moon (~2024) and will launch the James Webb Space Telescope (December 18, 2021). SpaceX has already revolutionized the launch industry. Mining of asteroids, harvesting Moon resources, and militarization of space is planned. But what are the ethical implications of these activities? How can the problems of past "frontier" exploitations be avoided? How can we protect even microbial life from terrestrial contamination (or annihilation), or should we care? What is the definition of life (there is no accepted definition), and what rights does it have? What are the ethics of billionaire joy-rides to space given their climate footprint? We see these developments as a great opportunity to teach an interdisciplinary undergraduate course on Philosophy and Science of Space Exploration. Our goal in this poster is to share our conceptual schema for a new course at UTSA to explore these profound and important questions. We present and request feedback on its design and delivery. As a team from different disciplinary backgrounds, i.e., philosophy, astrophysics, and STEM education, we marshal the conceptual and empirical frameworks of these disciplines to encourage students to be intelligent consumers of space exploration. The course will (i) develop a curriculum in philosophy of space exploration that promotes the principles of equity, accessibility and inclusivity; (ii) educate students on the complex scientific and ethical questions pertaining to space exploration; and (iii) help students develop distinctive and critical perspectives in examining and responding to such questions through student-centered and experiential learning.