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Ethical Considerations in Space Travel

55Cancri.jpgEver watched the original, 1968 version of Planet of the Apes? Remember that scene where they crash land after traveling in deep space, and Charlton Heston's character discovers one of his crew members died while in hibernation because of an air leak in her chamber?

I swear I haven't ruined anything for those who have yet to see the movie, but I was reminded of that scene after reading an Associated Press article from Tuesday. The article details what NASA must consider as it sets its sights farther into the universe:

"How do you get rid of the body of a dead astronaut on a three-year mission to Mars and back?

When should the plug be pulled on a critically ill astronaut who is using up precious oxygen and endangering the rest of the crew? Should NASA employ DNA testing to weed out astronauts who might get a disease on a long flight?"

The article mentions that NASA already has some policies in place, like the amount of radiation an astronaut can safely be exposed to. As for the other stuff, an "ethical framework" will have to be constructed, according to a quote from NASA's chief health and medical officer.

Links:
"On Trip to Mars, NASA Must Rethink Death" (AP)
C. Alan Joyce's previous blog entry about The World Almanac's picks for Top 10 Celestial and Space Exploration Events of 2007

Image: Artist's concept of a large, rocky extrasolar planet. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

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