Space tourism has had some unexpected passengers. Virgin Galactic took millions of years old hominid remains into space. What the company calls a tribute to science has been considered irresponsible and even a publicity stunt by the scientific community.
A billionaire’s trip to space has sparked intense controversy in the scientific community. On September 8, South African businessman Timothy Nash boarded Virgin Galactic spacecraftVSS Unity, with an unusual object in his pocket: a small carbon fiber container that housed ancient hominid fossils.
This historic event was celebrated as a tribute to science and discovery by researchers at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and yet it has been widely condemned by the scientific community, who do not consider space travel Timothy Nash at VSS Unity proposes nothing for palentology.
Many consider it a publicity stunt, lacking scientific value, for the new and eccentric space tourism. Inside the container were a 2 million-year-old clavicle, belonging to Australopithecus sediba, and a 300,000-year-old thumb bone from Homo naledi. Both fossils represent a vital link to our evolutionary history, according to reports ScienceAlert.
The scientific community is wondering whether this particular risk benefits both paleontology and space travel. Many researchers have flatly stated that the trip is: “Unscientific”.
South Africa is one of the richest countries in hominid archaeological remains
South Africa is a country rich in hominid archaeological remains and has played an important role in our understanding of human evolution. One of the most famous sites is Sterkfontein, part of the so-called Belt of Skulls in Gauteng.
Numerous hominid fossils have been found here, including the famous Little Foot, a partial Australopithecus skeleton dating to approximately more than 3 million years ago.
The reason why these remains could go to space is because they were not considered human” but rather paleontological.which excludes the application of ethics that requires that human remains be treated with dignity.
The controversy does not stop here. Modern technological advances allow scientists to examine fossils in new ways, meaning that even the most studied remains may still hide unrevealed secrets.
While the remains returned safely to Earth, experts are concerned about the possible consequences of this approval for future finds. This controversial event has further fueled the debate over the control of human remainsas well as the need to establish common standards for their custody, protection and access and to delimit space tourism.