Should regulations for environmental protection be valid beyond our solar system? Currently, extra-terrestrial forms of life are only deemed worth protecting if they can be scientifically investigated. But what about the numerous, presumably lifeless planets whose oxygen atmospheres open up the possibility of settlement by terrestrial life forms? Theoretical physicist Claudius Gros from Goethe University has taken a closer look at this issue.
On Earth, environmental protection has the primary goal of ensuring the availability of clean water and clean air for human beings in the future. Human interests usually take precedent when it comes to protecting more developed animals and plants. Lower life forms such as bacteria, on the other hand, are considered worthy of protection only in exceptional cases.
Claudius Gros, professor for theoretical physics at Goethe University, has now investigated the degree to which the norms for the protection of planets can be derived analogously from issues that arise in environmental protection on Earth. The international COSPAR agreements on space research stipulate that space missions must ensure that any existing life—such as possible life on Jovian moon Europa—or traces of previous life forms, perhaps on Mars—arenotpolluted, so that they remain intact for scientific purposes. The protection of extra-terrestrial life as valuable in and of itself is not stipulated.