Heteromatic Robots on Mars: Ethics of going Outer Space

DULLER, Nicole and RODRIGUEZ-AMAT, Joan (2021). Heteromatic Robots on Mars: Ethics of going Outer Space. In: Proceedings of the Austrian Robotics Workshop 2021. Vienna, University of Applied Sciences, 57-63.

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The exploration of space has gained pace. It is urgent to face this emerging and deeply transforming technological process with research that deals with societal, political, technical, legal, and ethical dimensions of the trans-planetary developments. This is part of a broader research program that draws attention to the manifold human and ethical implications of these endeavors, particularly those related to the exploration of Mars. The specific goal, in this case, is to open a space of critical discussion that shows the need of such research program: the relevance and opportunity to investigate the features of responsibility and their links to the governance of the space race. This program asks about the ethical implications of going and being in outer space, and lifts the question towards a broader transdisciplinary discussion. Challenging the fundamental notion of automatism as an essential feature of the outer-space technology, this research shows that multiple interstices of responsibility open as critical spaces that require ethical and political questioning. The concepts of heteromation -as a challenge to automation- and of heterogeneity -as a challenge to homogeneity- serve this critical purpose and shed light to a chain of processes usually blinded to critical enquiry. This is done here with three (and half) specific Martian missions that serve as examples: 1) NASA’s helicopter drone Ingenuity, 2) SpaceX Starship program and 3) the former Mars One mission, or 4) the Tianwen China National Space Administration (CNSA) mission. These cases illustrate the potential of this approach and suggest further research possibilities. These cases help trace and draw together sets of connections that allow the identification of specific ethical issues, the investigation of the values and norms upon which the current actions and future plans, the aims, motifs and goals of these initiatives are built and reproduce. This paper ends by suggesting an interdisciplinary research approach that combines a technoscientific Actor-Network Theory (ANT) and a fluid Grounded Theory. Such frames suggest a mix of quantitative, qualitative digital and network methods of research, that expand from the collection and analysis of online and social media activity, to expert interviews, content and document analysis. These tools serve to follow and connect the manifold of actors, systems, and processes that make up a heterogeneous heteromatic network of engineering, managerial and organizational activities that involve the multiple ethical implications of going outer space. This decade and the decades ahead will see many new challenges and changes regarding all things space; and the gaze of this project critically enquiries about their ethical awareness.

Item Type: Book Section
Page Range: 57-63
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic Elements
Depositing User: Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited: 20 May 2021 10:13
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2021 13:15
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/28664

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