Steve Pointing is Professor of Applied Ecology at Auckland University of Technology and director of the university’s Institute for Applied Ecology New Zealand. He pioneered the use of molecular techniques to understand how simple microbes cling to life in extreme environments such as the icy deserts of Antarctica, boiling geothermal pools and lakes that are ten times more salty than the ocean. This led to interest from NASA astrobiologists, those who seek to understand if life could exist beyond Earth, since the harsh conditions mimic those encountered on the surface of other planets. Steve has led an astrobiology research team collaborating with NASA for over a decade, and broadened his interests to consider the societal impacts of discovering life on other planets: How will this change our perception of humanity? What practical steps should we consider in preparation for this? Might we view the discovery of primitive and advanced alien life differently? What can we learn from our own historical interactions between first nation peoples and ‘alien’ colonists?