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Joel Sercel on the ethics of space exploration

Ep. 255

In 1958, in the wake of the Soviet Union launching Sputnik 1 – the world’s first artificial satellite – into space, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act into law. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, was born. And the space race was underway.


In the following decades, the world would see the first man in space, the first spacewalk, and astronauts landing on the surface of the moon. Across eight different programs, the United States would fly 239 space missions, with 135 of those representing the space shuttle program.


On August 31, 2011, the United States’ shuttle program was officially ended, and the United States government was out of the business of space exploration and travel.


Today, private companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin are leading the way into the final frontier. Elon Musk has announced his plan is to have 1 million people living in a colony on Mars by the year 2050. 


As a new space race to settle on Mars and, perhaps, beyond takes flight, significant ethical questions remain unclear and unanswered. 


Today, we talk with Joel Sercel, an entrepreneur and space technologist, who argues that we need to start building international consensus on questions surrounding bioethics, property rights, laws governing space travel and space settlements, and stewardship of God’s creation outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.


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