It would be nice to find life on other worlds, no doubt about it! However, it may be wise to reconsider this entire thing. If we indeed find alien life, can we handle it epidemiologically, biologically, and emotionally?
We are currently in the middle of an alarming worldwide situation with previously unknown disease COVID-19. As of this writing, confirmed cases reach close to 90,000 in 68 countries, leading to over 3,000 deaths. Tokyo Olympics are threatened to be postponed, flights have been grounded, major international gatherings canceled, and a global recession looms. In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had its worst week since the 2008 and 2009 recession, shedding one-third of its gains since the 2016 election. Most of these are due to fears of the negative impact of COVID-19.
Humanity is suffering the effects of the disease, but the Chinese and Asian-looking people are taking the big blow. The virus started in Wuhan, China, and ugly behaviors have surfaced around the world. At a California high school, an Asian-American 16-year old was assaulted and accused of carrying the virus. There’s an underlying anti-Chinese sentiment in South Korea, with some shops posting signs not allowing Chinese. In Vancouver, a Chinese boy playing at a school playground was taunted as being a virus carrier.
COVID-19 has nothing to do with space, as it is an entirely terrestrial problem. But the thing is, even its terrestrial origin, it leads to thousands of deaths around the world. What more if the virus came from the space? NASA is poised to launch in July a new rover to Mars that will hunt for microbial life and collect some soil and rock samples that will be bought to Earth. These samples are potentially containing that microbial life.
NASA has a long history of protecting the Earth from biohazards from other planets and vice versa, according to a column in Space.com. The agency has one division solely formed for that goal, which is formally known as the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance (OSMA) and commonly known as the Planetary Protection office.
Still, the risk exists. Even the strictest labs always have a non-zero chance that something could escape. Imagine it will, and many people will become infected. Aside from the impact of their health, they would not only be racialized but also extraterrestrialized, in the sense that they are not even fully human anymore.
The battle against SARS-CoV-2 shows that humanity can have a unified effort, and it will be the same if one of those alien living things threatens us all. Collectivism is among our highest qualities. On the other hand, the othering, racializing, directed at people of Chinese descent, is one of our lowest qualities.