Newswise — New York, NY, December 7, 2020 – The New York Academy of Sciences is hosting two programs on Space Exploration this week, with topics including legal agreements for “off planet” governance, bioengineering to make space travel safer for astronauts, and questions of bio-ethics related to interplanetary travel. Our Lunar Future, will be held on Wednesday evening, December 9, and a day-long technical symposium, Bioengineering for Space, will be held on Thursday, December 10. 

 Our Lunar Future Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 7 PM – 8:30 PM EST

This program will discuss NASA’s Artemis mission to orbit and then land on the lunar surface. Participants will explore scientific goals, and how establishing a more permanent human presence at the moon may serve as a stepping-stone to Mars. Speakers will also discuss how we establish international legal agreements “off-planet.”

The panelists will be:

  • Timiebi Aganaba-Jeanty, PhD, LLM, with the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University. Dr. Aganaba-Jeanty is an expert on space law.  Her research explores diversity among decision-makers for planned systems of space governance.
  • Dina Contella, Operations Integration and Utilization Manager for NASA’s Gateway program. Gateway is a planned orbiting outpost near the Moon that will support surface landing missions. Ms. Contella is a former Mission Control Flight Director at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
  • Dorit Donoviel, PhD,Director of Translational research institute for space health and associate professor in the center for space medicine at Baylor college of Medicine. Dr. Donoviel is a leader in the search for approaches to human space exploration that reduce risk to human health and performance.

This program will be moderated by Kari Fischer, PhD, New York Academy of Sciences.

For more information, please see:


Bioengineering for Space Thursday, December 10, 2020; 11:15 AM – 4:40 PM EST.

This symposium will present research on gene editing and synthetic biology that may be used to overcome human limitations during long term spaceflight. The keynote speaker will be Anousheh Ansari of the XPRIZE Foundation. 

Leading scientists will be speaking on topics that include:

  • Research on ways to discern the molecular basis of changes in the human body during long-term human space travel, including genetic, epigenetic, transcriptional, and metagenomic changes. (Christopher Mason, PhD, Weill Cornell Medicine)
  • Efforts in synthetic biology to re-introduce missing biosynthetic pathways into a mammalian genome to restore the capacity to create essential amino acids. Humans have lost—through the course of evolution—the ability to manufacture in their bodies nine essential amino acids. This research may point to ways to restore that ability, which may prove important to human health during interplanetary space voyages. (Harris Wang, PhD, Columbia University Medical Center)
  • Microbiology of the Built Environment, including research on biological samples taken to and from the International Space Station. The research shows how bacteria and fungi taken into space can become more dangerous than their counterparts on Earth. (Jack Gilbert, PhD, University of California San Diego)
  • Research on how to grow vegetables and other plants in space, which will be essential for future space travel. (Gioia Massa, PhD, NASA)

The symposium will also feature panel discussions on questions of bio-ethics raised by space research and space travel. Will it be ethical to change the human genome to increase resistance to radiation and other hazards in space? Who gets to make decisions about space travel, acceptable risk, and the privatization of space? What responsibilities do scientists and astronauts have to avoid altering the genetic environment of lands we may seek to inhabit? 

Speakers will also include: Martine Rothblatt, PhD, JD, MBA, United Therapeutics; Mark Weyland, MS,  NASA; R. Alta Charo, JD, University of Wisconsin Law School; Eliza Strickland, IEEE Spectrum; and John Rummel, PhD, Friday Harbor Partners, LLC.

This program will be moderated by Kari Fischer, PhD, New York Academy of Sciences.

For more information, please see:



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