Securing the Stars: The Security Implications of Human Culture for Crewed Interstellar Flight

Author: Michael Massa, NA, Program Manager, Omitted – representing self, not employer

Abstract Background: Manned interstellar vehicles will operate in an unforgiving medium for extended periods and will not share the advantages of the more resilient terrestrial craft. Important differences in shipboard culture may be required in order to maximize the chances of success.

Abstract Objectives: The design of crewed vehicles represents a long lead item which must be addressed before human interstellar travel. Identifying the cultural shifts needed in order to create the most resilient ship/crew system can be supported during the ship design and crew selection phase advances the goal of manned interstellar travel.

Abstract Methods: This abstract draws upon my education and practical experience as former Naval Special Warfare (SEAL) Officer responsible for assessing target vulnerabilities, a Global Managing Director for Risk and Resilience at Deutsche Bank AG and my current role as a Program Manager for the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University specializing in the Department of Defense Risk Management Framework.

I use informal comparative analysis to characterize and prioritize the culturally relevant risk factors that existing and historical modes of human travel have in common with interstellar flight. Specifically, I contrast transoceanic sail-powered ship travel, Antarctic research and nuclear deterrence submarine patrols with the conditions that we can expect during space travel. The phase of interstellar travel, from fitting-out and in-home-system testing, to deep-space transit and arrival and assay phase, may also be distinct in terms of cultural risk.

Abstract Results: The relatively low resilience of interstellar craft to traditional categories of human-originated risk will drive the requirement to modify, for a long period, the culture of the crew and passengers. Examples of these cultural topics include but are not limited to religion, recreational sex, privacy, politics, personal hygiene etc.

Abstract Conclusions: Voyage designers must take deeply personal elements of culture into account. Constraints and modifications to sensitive cultural touch points must be accepted by the crew and passengers of a successful interstellar flight. I suggest the application and modification of existing risk management frameworks.

Leave a Reply