Lessons from the 2024 Munich Security Conference

Avi Loeb
5 min readFeb 17, 2024
A “Conversation on Space” between Rolf Dobelli (right) and Avi Loeb (Left) at the 60th Munich Security Conference (Image credit: Corinna Hoyer, February 16, 2024).

As Rolf Dobelli and I approached the men’s room at the hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich, Germany, I noticed the label “H” on the door. I immediately asked Rolf whether “H” stands for “Humans”. This thought came to my mind because the two of us were supposed to discuss aliens in a public forum shortly thereafter. I reasoned that if we ever encounter Extraterrestrials, we might need an additional toilet system with the letter “E” on the door.

As we walked through the hotel reception area, we noticed John Kerry, Volodymyr Zelinskyy’s team and many heads of states from around the world. We also learned that distinguished US representatives, such as Kamala Harris, Tony Blinken, Alejandro Mayorkas and Hillary Clinton, were also in the building. As we ventured for a drink on the hotel roof, we noticed snipers with black headcovers and police people all over the place. I had never witnessed anything like this in four decades of attending conferences.

At this point, you might be wondering what I was doing along with snipers and police on the roof of the hotel Bayerischer Hof? The answer is that I arrived at Munich six hours earlier to attend the 2024 Munich Security Conference. The chairman of the conference wanted to include science in addition to politics in this year’s event. He partnered with WORLD.MINDS, founded by Rolf Dobelli — who chose to bring me to the stage. As a result, a practicing astrophysicist was featured for the first time in a full 45-minute session, titled a “Conversation on Space”. The fact that snipers were there to protect Harris or Zelinskyy and not me, demonstrates that the politics of terrestrials is far more controversial than the possible existence of extraterrestrials. My full conversation with Rolf can be viewed online at this link.

My flight from Boston to Munich was seamless. It was not accompanied by jet lag because I usually wake up a couple of hours before sunrise for my morning jog at Boston. This time coincided with the arrival time at Munich. I could not fly earlier because we just completed an extensive paper, summarizing the analysis of meteoritic materials from a Pacific Ocean expedition. The surprising properties of this interstellar meteor were explained in a follow-up paper that I published last week with my brilliant postdoc, Morgan MacLeod.

Naturally, my conversation with Rolf, followed-up by a presentation to space leaders in Europe, focused on the study of interstellar objects near Earth. I expressed the hope that finding technological debris from cosmic neighbors would educate us about their habits. For example, finding a tennis ball among the rocks in our backyard of the solar system would imply that a neighbor plays tennis. Our limited imagination to interpret what we find could be aided by artificial intelligence.

At this point, you might wonder why extraterrestrial technological civilizations might be of interest to politicians whose day job is national security? The answer was conveyed in three reports from the Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, to the US Congress, submitted between 2021 and 2023 about Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAPs). The Galileo Project is operating new observatories to figure out the nature of UAPs, and is conducting expeditions to crash sites of interstellar meteors that were discovered by US Government satellites.

As I was sitting next to Major General Michael Traut, Commander of the German Space Command, he noted: “You must be very busy, Professor Loeb, because I see that you were typing throughout this session.” “Not as busy as you must be,” I replied given the Russian nuclear threat to satellites in today’s news. Dr. Josef Aschbacher, director of the European Space agency was smiling on the other side of the room.

Dozens of participants approached me to say that they were inspired by my words. At the end of my meeting with space leaders, the moderator Jeanne Meserve, an award-winning journalist, asked for a selfie so that she could share it with her family relative, Sophie Bergstrom, who hunted down with tweezers most of the spherules in our expedition materials as a summer intern under my mentorship.

Next, I will be heading tomorrow to Torun, Poland, to give the keynote lecture in an official Polish government celebration of 550 years to the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus. My Polish hosts promised to show me Copernicus’ home, an inspiring sight. My lecture there on “The Next Copernican Revolution” will suggest that we might not be at the intellectual center of the Universe.

As I stated at the Munich Security Conference, our dismal terrestrial politics leaves plenty of room for extraterrestrial species to show more intelligence than we do. If we ever settle on the Moon or Mars, our interplanetary politics might require holding a security conference away from Earth. In contrast with my roundtrip this time, I might purchase a one-way ticket away from Earth on that occasion to a place where no snipers are needed.


Image credit: Chris Michel (October 2024)

Avi Loeb is the head of the Galileo Project, founding director of Harvard University’s — Black Hole Initiative, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the former chair of the astronomy department at Harvard University (2011–2020). He chairs the advisory board for the Breakthrough Starshot project, and is a former member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and a former chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. He is the bestselling author of “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” and a co-author of the textbook “Life in the Cosmos”, both published in 2021. His new book, titled “Interstellar”, was published in August 2023.



Avi Loeb

Avi Loeb is the Baird Professor of Science and Institute director at Harvard University and the bestselling author of “Extraterrestrial” and "Interstellar".