Broadcast 231 (Special Edition)

14 Jun 2004 Dr. Christopher P. McKay
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Dr. Chris McKay, a Planetary Scientist with the Space Science Division of NASA Ames, was the guest for this Space Show program. Dr. McKay talked about the possibility of life on Mars, information being gleaned from the rovers, the impact of the meaning of methane on Mars and much more. In having dedicated his career to finding life on Mars, he was asked about the impact on the search for life in the solar system should it be confirmed that there never has been and is not now life on Mars. He talked about the possible contamination of Mars by earth organisms from our own missions to Mars, and we spent a significant amount of time discussing ethical issues regarding the discovery of any level of life on Mars as well as terraforming Mars. Dr. McKay explained his approach which is to explore and develop Mars, but to do in a reversible manor, rather than moving ahead with exploration and development without regard to any life that may be on Mars. We also talked about Venus and what it means for Earth given that Venus is most likely a good example of global warming gone wild with the possibility it could happen here on Earth. We talked about other likely targets for life in our solar system and Dr. McKay ranked the possibilities, with Europa being the strongest possibility after Mars. Dr. McKay was asked several questions about space commerce, space access by the private-sector, lunar development, and Martian development. I asked Dr. McKay about the value of the Mars analog sites here on Earth and he explained why training at these various sites is best on Earth over any other place and the important characteristics of each of the Earth analog training sites. He is a strong supporter of the private sector operating in space, of the efforts to successfully having suborbital launches and has been following the activities of many of the companies in Mojave, including Space Ship One by Scaled Composites. He said he would also ride on Space Ship One if given the chance! We also talked about returning to the Moon and he pointed out that the goal should be to get humans to Mars. If the Moon can be helpful for training or something else in that context, he is supportive of returning to the Moon, but he clearly stated that the exciting science is on Mars and that human exploration and eventual settlement of Mars should be the goal and remain the goal. Dr. McKay discussed many other interesting subjects during this interview and I urge all of you to listen to this program. For sure, The Space Show will invite Chris McKay back as a guest. He is a fascinating person, clearly visionary, and on the cutting edge of space science with an ethical understanding of the relationships required to enable us all to become truly space-faring.

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