Christopher McKay

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Christopher McKay
McKay in Antarctica in 2005
EducationPhysics, Florida Atlantic University

Mechanical Engineering, Florida Atlantic University

PhD in astrogeophysics , University of Colorado (1982)
Occupation(s)Planetary Scientist, NASA Ames Research Center
OrganizationPlanetary Society Mars Society

Dr Christopher P. McKay (born 1954)[1] is an American 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,[2][3] and received his PhD in astrogeophysics from the University of Colorado in 1982.[4][5][6]


McKay has done research on planetary atmospheres, particularly the atmospheres of Titan[7][8] and Mars, and on the origin and evolution of life.[9] 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,[10] Axel Heiberg Island, and ice-covered lakes in Antarctica. McKay is the Principal Investigator of the proposed Icebreaker Life astrobiology mission to Mars.[11] In 2015 he received the Nevada Medal.

He was 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.[12][13][14] He is also an adviser for the Microbes Mind Forum.[15]

Ethics of terraforming[edit]

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.[16][17] He has held a series of public debates with Robert Zubrin, who advocates a moderately anthropocentric position on the ethics of terraforming.[18][19]

See also[edit]

  • David S. McKay (September 25, 1936 – February 20, 2013) a NASA astrobiologist


  1. ^ "5382 McKay (1991 JR2)". Retrieved 2 March 2021. McKay. Discovered 1991 May 8 by R.H.McNaugth at Siding Spring. Named for Christopher P. McKay (b. 1954), sapce scientist and exobiologist ...
  2. ^ Edward Silverman, "Scientists' Paths To Eminence: What Are The Turning Points?", The Scientist, Vol:6, #2, 20 January 1992.
  3. ^ "Christopher McKay | Academic Influence". Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  4. ^ Chris McKay Planetary Scientist - NASA Quest
  5. ^ "Many Worlds Symposium". Archived from the original on 2012-10-29. Retrieved 2012-08-27.
  6. ^ "Mckay". National Space Grant Foundation. Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ "Christopher McKay". Science Friday. Retrieved 2022-07-20.
  9. ^ Organic Synthesis in Experimental Impact Shocks, Christopher P. McKay and William J. Borucki, Science, Vo. 276 pp. 390–392, 18 April 1997
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ 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; Wayne H. Pollard (April 5, 2013). "The Icebreaker Life Mission to Mars: A Search for Biomolecular Evidence for Life". Astrobiology. 13 (4): 334–353. Bibcode:2013AsBio..13..334M. doi:10.1089/ast.2012.0878. PMID 23560417. S2CID 21073805.
  12. ^ Haynes, R. H.; McKay, C. P. (1992). "The Implantation of Life on Mars: Feasibility and Motivation". Adv. Space Res. 12 (4): 133–140. Bibcode:1992AdSpR..12d.133H. doi:10.1016/0273-1177(92)90167-v. PMID 11538133.
  13. ^ C. P. McKay and M. M. Marinova, "The Physics, Biology and Environmental Ethics of Making Mars Habitable", Astrobiology 1, 89–109 (2001).
  14. ^ Marinova, M. M.; McKay, C. P.; Hashimoto, H. (2005). "Radiative-Convective Model of Warming Mars using Artificial Super-Greenhouse Gases". J. Geophys. Res. 110 (E3): E03002. Bibcode:2005JGRE..110.3002M. doi:10.1029/2004JE002306.
  15. ^ Microbes Mind Forum – Advisors Archived 2014-02-28 at the Wayback Machine (2014)
  16. ^ C. P. McKay, "Let's Put Martian Life First", The Planetary Report, XXI(4), 4–5 (2001).
  17. ^ McKay, Chris (December 2007). "Planetary Ecosynthesis on Mars: Restoration Ecology and Environmental Ethics" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-04-01. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  18. ^ 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)
  19. ^ 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).

External links[edit]

Media related to Christopher McKay at Wikimedia Commons