This week, the science guys have come up and got all pumped up about a planet that make be like the Earth and fairly near.....well.....near enough that we might be talking about a space trip out to this planet (unmanned very likely) in about twenty-five to thirty years. The big talk is.....it just be have life on it and we'd start to prove or disprove some things.
So, you have to pull out the Captain Kirk text-book and start some assumptions.
Any ship we send.....will be told to orbit far out....search for radio and TV signals and approach the planet with extreme caution.
The minute you learn that there is life.....how do you approach? Or do you skip that step and simply retreat?
If you learn they have nukes and have used them in the past.....will you make any attempt to send a 'message'?
When your ship comes back to Earth, with all this data over life existing there.....intelligent life.....possibly threatening life.....then what? Will you even allow the returning team to return to Earth and explain what they found?
Suppose you land there and find some primitive culture of man existing....in the midst a dinosaur era. Will you go and help them wipe out the dinosaurs as part of the "good-Earth" agenda?
If you land and find the culture more or less in the technology era of 1912.....will you land and declare yourself as some friend to their culture?
My guess is that NASA has ten guys on the payroll....all PhD types.....and all thinking about how stuff like this can be handled. It's probably not a very happy group. They know that you are simply asking for trouble....no matter what folks you find.....even if these are cave-men or 6th century-thinking folks. Do you give them penicillin? Do you hand them a copy of Shakespeare? Do you lecture them on poker and how to play it? Do you demonstrate baseball? Do you mention Hillary and her email woes?
What if the natives of the new planet see you as a "God" and worship you? Does our Roger Ramjet astronaut guy then say that he'll come back in five years and bring other "Gods" with him?
If you do make the decision to kill off 300,000 dangerous dinosaurs on this new planet.....will it get you in trouble back on Earth? Will some court lawyer drag you into some mess because of decision on a planet half-way across the universe?
If our astronaut guy strikes up a relationship with cave-gal Jane there and has some kids with her.....will it cause some trouble with NASA?
I'm guessing there is a 3,000 page paper sitting there at NASA with the countless number of scenarios and how each should be handled. Frankly, it'd likely scare the crap out of most PhD guys to think at this level and worry about the impact of things down the line.