Christopher P. McKay is a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, studying planetary atmospheres, astrobiology, and terraforming. McKay majored in physics at Florida Atlantic University, where he also studied mechanical engineering, graduating in 1975, and received his PhD in astrogeophysics from the University of Colorado in 1982.
McKay has done research on planetary atmospheres, particularly the atmospheres of Titan and Mars, and on the origin and evolution of life. He is a co-investigator on the Huygens probe, the Mars Phoenix lander, and the Mars Science Laboratory. He also performed field research on extremophiles, in such locations as Death Valley, the Atacama Desert, Axel Heiberg Island, and ice-covered lakes in Antarctica. McKay is the Principal Investigator of the proposed Icebreaker Life astrobiology mission to Mars.
He is a member of the board of directors of the Planetary Society and also works with the Mars Society, and has written and spoken on space exploration and terraforming. He is also an adviser for the Microbes Mind Forum.
Ethics of terraforming
McKay advocates a moderately biocentric position in the ethics of terraforming, arguing that we must thoroughly explore a planet such as Mars first to discover whether there is any microbial life before taking first steps toward terraforming, and that if indigenous alien life is found in an obscure niche or dormant on Mars, we should remove all Earth life and alter Mars to support the global spread of this alien life on Mars. He has held a series of public debates with Robert Zubrin, who advocates a moderately anthropocentric position on the ethics of terraforming.
- Edward Silverman, "Scientists' Paths To Eminence: What Are The Turning Points?", The Scientist, Vol:6, #2, 20 January 1992.
- Chris McKay Planetary Scientist - NASA Quest
- Many Worlds Symposium
- e.g. Photochemically Driven Collapse of Titan's Atmosphere, Ralph D. Lorenz, Christopher P. McKay, and Jonathan I. Lunine, Science, Vol. 275 pp. 642 - 644, 31 Jan. 1997
- Organic Synthesis in Experimental Impact Shocks, Christopher P. McKay and William J. Borucki, Science, Vo. 276 pp. 390-392, 18 April 1997
- Microbial Life in the Atacama Desert, R. M. Maier, K. P. Drees, J. W. Neilson, D. A. Henderson, J. Quade, J. L. Betancourt;, Rafael Navarro-Gonzalez, Fred A. Rainey, and Christopher P. McKay, Science, Vol. 306 pp. 1289-1290, 19 November 2004
- Christopher P. McKay; Carol R. Stoker, Brian J. Glass, Arwen I. Davé, Alfonso F. Davila, Jennifer L. Heldmann, Margarita M. Marinova, Alberto G. Fairen, Richard C. Quinn, Kris A. Zacny, Gale Paulsen, Peter H. Smith, Victor Parro, Dale T. Andersen, Michael H. Hecht, Denis Lacelle, and Wayne H. Pollard. (April 5, 2013). "The Icebreaker Life Mission to Mars: A Search for Biomolecular Evidence for Life". Astrobiology 13 (4): 334–353. doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0878. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
- R.H. Haynes and C.P. McKay, "The Implantation of Life on Mars: Feasibility and Motivation," Adv. Space Res., 12, (4)133-(4)140 (1992).
- C.P. McKay and M.M. Marinova, "The Physics, Biology and Environmental Ethics of Making Mars Habitable," Astrobiology, 1, 89-109 (2001).
- M.M. Marinova, C.P. McKay and H. Hashimoto, "Radiative-Convective Model of Warming Mars using Artificial Super-Greenhouse Gases," J.Geophys.Res., 110, E03002, doi:10.1029/2004JE002306 (2005).
- C.P. McKay, "Let's Put Martian Life First," The Planetary Report, XXI(4), 4-5 (2001).
- C.P. McKay and R.M. Zubrin, "Do Indigenous Martian Bacteria have Precedence over Human Exploration?" in On to Mars: Colonizing a New World (pp. 177-182)
- R.M. Zubrin and C.P. McKay, "A World for the Winning: The Exploration and Terraforming of Mars," The Planetary Report, XII(5), 16-19 (1992).
- Video of Chris McKay on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, "Are We Bound for Space?" panel discussion with Chris Hadfield, Lawrence Krauss, Donna Shirley, Karl Schroeder and Robert D. Richards
- McKay's Public Lecture on Saturn's Moon Titan, part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series