Traces of Humanity

I have an article in this week’s Ideas section of the Boston Globe titled Traces of Humanity: What aliens could learn from the stuff we’ve left in space. In commemoration of the forty year anniversary of the placement of the Fallen Astronaut monument on the moon, I explore how what we place in space, consciously or otherwise, paints a picture of humanity:

If you were to visit the moon today, in the neighborhood of the Apennine mountain range, you would find a small figurine, about the same size and shape as a Lego minifigure, lying facedown in the lunar dust. Unauthorized by NASA, this “Fallen Astronaut” sculpture was placed there exactly 40 years ago this past week by astronauts David Scott and James Irwin of Apollo 15, and sits alongside a tiny plaque listing the names of 14 astronauts and cosmonauts who had died during their time in their respective space programs.

This haunting miniature memorial is only one of the many artifacts and messages that human beings have deliberately sent into space, or left there, as a symbol of our presence. On Earth, most of human history has involved unconsciously leaving traces of our existence, from garbage to aqueduct ruins. But when we go into space, we can begin to make choices about what we leave to posterity.

The rest is here.