About the Program
The Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Astrobiology Program establishes a focus in the nation’s capital for the exploration of issues surrounding life’s future in the universe, for humans and other species, on Earth and beyond. The program encourages discussion and reflection on the potential impacts of discovering whether there is life beyond our planet. One senior researcher is appointed annually to be in residence at The John W. Kluge Center, to make use of the Library of Congress collections in exploration of these questions, as well as convene related programs that ensure the subject of astrobiology’s role in culture and society receives considered treatment each year in Washington, D.C.
Astrobiology: The Intersection of the Sciences and the Humanities
Astrobiology addresses three fundamental questions: "How did life begin and evolve?" "Is there life beyond Earth?" and "What is the future of life on Earth and beyond?"
Before the advent of modern science, these questions were largely in the realm of philosophy, theology and ethics. Today, the tools of science are increasingly being brought to bear to address these questions. The NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology represents an opportunity for high-level collaboration in understanding the interface between astrobiology and human society.
The Astrobiology Chair creates an opportunity to research the range and complexity of societal issues related to how life begins and evolves, and to examine the philosophical, religious, ethical, legal, cultural and other concerns arising from scientific research on the origin, evolution and nature of life.
Possibilities for research subjects are many. The following are meant to inspire, not to limit creativity: legal issues related to governance of planets and space; the ethical implications of cross-contamination; scientific and philosophical definitions of life; conceptions of the origins of life in theistic and non-theistic religions; comparison of the discussion of these issues in multiple nations and cultures. The Chair may also consider life’s collective future—for humans and other life, on Earth and beyond, examining the impacts on life and future evolutionary trajectories that may result from both natural events and human-directed activities.
The Chair is open to scholars and leading thinkers in the fields of philosophy, history, literature, religion, astrobiology, astronomy, planetary science, the history of science, paleontology, Earth and atmospheric sciences, geological sciences, ethics, or other related fields.
Uniquely situated for research, analysis and serious discussion of America’s and the world’s relationship to the Earth, and the moral and philosophical questions of life in the universe, the Library of Congress offers facilities for scholars, universal collections spanning more than 470 languages, broad language and subject expertise of the Library staff, the central position of the Library on Capitol Hill, and the inspiring atmosphere of the magnificent Thomas Jefferson Building in which to annually examine the general subject of the future of life in the universe.
The Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology is made possible through a unique interagency agreement between NASA Astrobiology Program and the Library of Congress. Established in 2011, the collaboration by NASA and the Library of Congress owes a great deal to the vision of the late Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg, Nobel Prize winner and founding member of the Library’s Scholars Council. Dr. Blumberg served as the founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute in 1999. The funding for the position is provided by NASA, and execution of the agreement is with the Kluge Center in consultation with the NASA Astrobiology Institute.
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