Where science and tech meet creativity.

NASAFollowing the small group break-out session, they brought us all together (with coffee… They are doing an great job feeding and liquefying us) so each group could go over their group’s discussion.

One of the themes that keeps coming up over and over is the cultural sensitivity. This is a complex issue and I can mentally hear Phil Plait jumping up and down in Colorado. As we look to build a permanent manned presence on the moon we need to remember:
– To many the moon is a sacred object and mining the moon is to some a desecration of a sacred object.
– The moon is in everyone’s sky – it can be seen by everyone on the Earth – it is not uniquely the property of super powers.
– The research we are doing is based on the knowledge (strangely, not excepted by all)

Related to this are several cultural uglinesses. Is this going to be a case of world powers taking the moon and exploiting it while other nations sit on the sidelines? This isn’t exactly a “White guys on the moon” problem – China will probably land astronauts on the moon before NASA gets people back to the moon. This is a world power versus not world power problem. I don’t think any African nations are working on manned space missions, however, and this is problematic.

I’m struggling with how to explain this problem. Imagine you are a child growing up in a small village in Africa. Your personal culture may see the moon as a sacred object that plays into your religious holidays and key dates in your year. In your schoolbooks, you learn that Russia and the US have landed metal bits on this sacred object. In the news you hear that China, India, Japan, and the US – (with varied levels of funding) are all hoping go back and walk all over your sacred object. You may see the US as white people representative of the colonists who subjected your nation, “ruined” your cultural, and forced artificial national boundaries on your people, forcing you to share a nation with tribes that are your historic enemy. Now, you see these white people looking to colonize your sacred object! Sure, there are Asian nations also looking to go, but… They are still other, and they are others who already have ample food, ample educational systems, ample – well they are nations with major industrial complexes and opportunities. Here you are, someplace where vaccinations, clean water, and access to education (heck access to ample hygiene!) are a day-to-day struggles in many areas of your country, watching the wealthy take over more potential resources.

You can tell the same story of someone growing up on some Native American reservations here in America.

This is a complex issue. How do we approach people from a position of respect and say, “Hey, I’m going to turn your religious symbol into an industrial complex and you don’t have a say in it.” If I were that kid, my response would probably be, “Not cool dude. Not cool. I don’t spray paint all over your church/synogog/temple/university do I? Why you gotta go mucking up the moon, man? Why you gotta do it?” We need to have a culturally sensitive answer.