Has Spaceflight Had an Impact on Society? An Interpretive
Howard E. McCurdy
Societal impacts may be seen as those transformations that
occur as a result of a given activity. Such impacts exist within a framework of
societal expectations. The framework provides a model for assessing the degree
to which actual events meet expectations or produce unanticipated consequences.
In the context of spaceflight, people promoting visions of cosmic travel led
others to anticipate that the venture would produce benefits both utilitarian
(rich nations explore space) and cultural (space exploration restores values
associated with open frontiers). As with other sweeping visions, such
expectations were communicated through loosely constructed historical analogies
and materials such as works of fiction designed for popular consumption. Actual
spaceflight activities may satisfy expectations, produce unforeseen
consequences, or be associated with transformations that would have occurred
even in the absence of such events. This presentation will include a framework
for examining the degree to which people promoting spaceflight in different
countries pursue a common set of expectations, particularly with reference to
the motives supporting human flight.
Session I: Turning Points
Overview: What is a Turning Point in History, and what were they for the Space Age?
Roger D. Launius
National Air and Space Museum
Debates over “turning points” in history are some of the most difficult and controversial differences between observers of the past. At sum they signify, represent, and define lasting changes in the climate of the times. The definition of a “turning point” is exceptionally idiosyncratic; and delineation of them also shift over time as perspectives change and events become more distant. For most people who look back on the twentieth century, 1929 and 1941 demonstrated “turning points” as the nation changed in fundamental way in response to the beginning of the “Great Depression” and as the U.S. entered World War II. At the same time, 1963 and 1987 were probably not “turning points” despite the Kennedy assassination and the stock market crash. To a very real extent, therefore, “turning points” reflect the sea change that follows an event rather than the event itself. Additionally, not all “turning points” need be marked by a dramatic event. For instance, no one event marks the shift from the conformist fifties to the radical sixties and seventies although many observers agree that these are indeed “turning points.”
In the context of spaceflight what are the “turning points?” Most would probably agree that the launch of Sputnik in 1957 represented a “turning point.” But what about the Kennedy decision to go to the Moon, the Moon landings themselves, the first flight of the Space Shuttle, the losses of Challenger and Columbia, the rise of China as a human spaceflight player? This list might be expanded indefinitely. This presentation will address what constitutes a turning point in history and examine some turning points in the history of the space age.
In Search of a Red Cosmos: Space Exploration, Public
Culture, and Soviet Society
James T. Andrews
Iowa State University
In the Soviet Union of the 1920s, a proliferation of popular
books, newspaper articles, and pamphlets on air and space flight filled the
popular press, and Soviet readers became part of a cosmopolitan readership
throughout Europe engaged in news on exploration of the cosmos. Indeed, as I
have argued in my book Science for the Masses, this only continued a prerevolutionary fascination with the stars,
heavens, and universe beyond. Astronomy and amateur space societies
proliferated in Soviet Russia till the Stalinist 1930s and genuinely were
generated from below, independently from the state.
this paper will argue that two catalytic time periods changed that public
response—both 1935, in Stalin‚s times, and 1957, in Khrushchev‚s. (Thus I
hope that this paper fits into the book‚s section dealing with the societal and
popular impact of these catalytic events in global space history.) In 1935,
Stalin and the Central Committee sanctioned Konstantin Tsiolkovskii to give a
taped speech on May Day from Red Square that was broadcast all over the former
Soviet Union. Tsiolkovskii‚s speech would be used by the regime to boast the
preeminence of early Soviet rocket theorists over Western thinkers. It would
begin a contest with the West of technological superiority that wrenched the
early popular enthusiasm for spaceflight into a politicized and nationalized
context. By 1957, with the launching of Sputnik, the Khrushchev regime and its
successors would continue that program, only this time directing memorial
celebrations to earlier rocket theorists, launching popular campaigns from
above in the press and journals, mythologizing cosmonauts and physicists alike,
and urging Soviet citizens to engage in the contest with the West, while
focusing on its „nationalš resonance.
paper hopes to analyze with more complexity how the early, more cosmopolitan
fascination with spaceflight in Russia shifted to become directed from above in
the shaping of popular consciousness of spaceflight after both 1935 and 1957.
It will also attempt to theorize on how one can deconstruct that campaign in a
censored state and whether there still remained the genuine popularly driven
response to space exploration. Furthermore, the book chapter will explore how
the popularization of space exploration in Soviet Russia may have also had a
real inspirational effect on future physicists regardless of the political
context within which these statist texts and campaigns were created. Yet, as
mentioned above, the chapter will clearly show how the monumental shifts from
1935 through 1957 constrained the Soviet public‚s enthusiasm and directed it
into „proper channels.š
The Impact of Apollo
The Apollo missions, the first human voyages to another world, were the most audacious and extraordinary achievements of the 20th century. Science fiction writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke has predicted that 500 years from now Apollo may be the only event by which the 20th century is remembered. While that may turn out to be true, Apollo's impact in our own time has been mixed.
To be sure, Apollo set a new standard by which to gauge human achievement.
Shortly after the Apollo 11 mission a phrase entered the popular lexicon:
"If they can put a man on the moon, why can't they ...?" The blank could be filled in with any one of a number of daunting problems of the day, from curing cancer to solving the troubles of the inner cities. The fact that Apollo was a triumph of engineering, a discipline not suited to medical or social issues, did not diminish the popularity of the phrase. In astonishing fashion, the public accepted the reality of humans walking on the moon, and impatiently awaited the next modern miracle.
In the decades since the Apollo program ended, however, the sheer difficulty of the lunar missions has either been underestimated (by those who mistakenly believe lunar flights are commonplace) or overestimated (by conspiracy theorists who don't believe the Apollo landings ever happened).
It is clear that Apollo's significance as one of the most extraordinary group efforts in human history has yet to be fully felt by the culture as a whole.
That said, Apollo did have a spectacular effect on certain segments of the population, fueling the ambitions of a new generation of scientists, engineers, astronauts, and even storytellers. The resurgence of Apollo-oriented movies, television epics, and books in the past decade or so, created by people who were in their teens when the first moonwalk took place, speaks to the multi-generational impact of the lunar missions.
Today, as we await the return of human beings to the moon, we find that Apollo's impact is still unfolding, sometimes in surprising ways. This paper will examine the range of effects that the lunar missions have had on our culture and draw conclusions about what those effects reveal about public perceptions of spaceflight.
Highs and Lows: Revaluing Spaceflight in the Shuttle Era
National Air and Space Museum
If only for this prime impact—national pride—the
Soviet and American missions of the 1960s cemented the social importance of
spaceflight. In the United States, new knowledge, scientific and technical
advances, and any other benefit of spaceflight paled in comparison to the
prestige of the Apollo-era accomplishments. The societal impact of spaceflight
during that first exploratory and competitive era is well appreciated, if not
yet exhaustively analyzed.
purpose of this paper is to delve into the past 30 years of U.S. spaceflight to
explore the societal impact of space exploration in the Shuttle era.
Assessments of practical benefits, scientific productivity, public opinion,
commercial enterprise, and other measures might detail the scope of such
impact. So, too, can an examination of several key missions as catalysts for
revaluing human spaceflight and space exploration. A selection of both „highsš
and „lowsš—successful and failed missions—can serve to illuminate
public attitudes about the value of spaceflight and thus about its societal
„highsš are missions executed successfully and worth notice as exemplars of the
value of human spaceflight. That some were indeed noticed and others ignored in
the public arena invites an examination of the implicit or assumed value of
spaceflight. Candidates for assessment as „highsš include an early Shuttle test
flight or operational flight, a „firstš mission (e.g., first U.S. woman in
space), a satellite deployment/retrieval mission, a high-yield science mission,
and a Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. Such missions value and revalue
human spaceflight in interesting ways.
„lowsš are the two Shuttle tragedies. The deaths of the Challenger and Columbia astronauts focused attention on the contested value of human
spaceflight and prompted quite different social expressions of its valuation.
One was the public‚s emotional response as evidenced by the rituals and
mementos of mourning the astronauts. From tokens left at spontaneous shrines to
official memorial ceremonies and monuments, public mourning suggested and
affirmed the civic values associated with human spaceflight. The more cerebral
response of accident analysis, investigative reports, news reporting, and
political hearings served as evidence of a more critical style of revaluing
human spaceflight. These also tapped core values that shape or curb society‚s
expectations about space exploration.
of a set of missions as punctuation marks in the Shuttle era yields insight
into the societal impact and the ongoing process of assuming, contesting, and
revaluing human spaceflight.
Space in the Post–Cold War Environment
John M. Logsdon
The George Washington University
It was clearly competition with the Soviet Union for the
prestige resulting from dramatic space achievements that motivated President
John F. Kennedy to set a lunar landing „before this decade is outš as a
national goal, with a subsequent, warlike mobilization of human and financial
resources toward its accomplishment. Even after the United States won the race
to the Moon, staying ahead of the Soviet Union appeared to be an important
influence on U.S. space policy during the 1970s and 1980s. As late as 1987, Time magazine suggested that the USSR was ahead of the
United States in space. But with the easing of Cold War tensions during the
1980s and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, that motivator disappeared,
and the United States found itself the clearly leading space power, with no
visible peer competitor.
This paper will examine the impacts
of this apparent „paradigm shiftš in the political underpinnings of the U.S.
civil space program. Without the ability to use the relationship with a
strategic competitor as a major argument for a strong space program, how was
NASA able to maintain societal support for its activities? Was there a change
in public and political attitudes toward and understanding of U.S. space
activities in the post–Cold War environment? Or, alternatively, had Cold
War competition lost is motive force much earlier, perhaps even before the
Apollo 11 landing on the Moon? If so, then the end of the Cold War and the
collapse of the Soviet Union would not in fact mark a watershed in the
relationship between the space program and American society.
The Taikonaut as Icon: The Social and Political Significance of Yang Liwei, China’s First Space Traveler, in China and Abroad
Dr. James R. Hansen
Over the years since the birth of the Space Age, historians and other analysts (such as Tom Wolfe, author of The Right Stuff) have shed a great deal of light on the societal impact of space exploration by exploring the cultural iconography and hero worship surrounding the pioneering men and women who first went into space, both in the United States and former Soviet Union. This paper attempts to provide some insights into the character of current-day China by exploring the verbal messages and visual iconography associated with Lt. Col. Yang Liwei, the 38-year old “taikonaut” who, in October 2003, became the first Chinese to fly in space, aboard the spacecraft known as Shenzhou 5, or “Divine Vessel 5.”
The paper begins with the life story of China’s first public space hero as it has been made known and told to the Chinese themselves and to the international community. The body of the paper then focuses on an analysis of the iconography surrounding the taikonaut Yang Liwei and what it seems to tell us about the ambitions of China’s human spaceflight program within the framework of a Confucian-based society and authoritarian Chinese state.
Session II: Commercial and Economic Impact
Commercial and Economic Impact of Spaceflight: An Overview
This discussion, introducing a group of tightly focused
analyses, will undertake to outline a framework within which to situate the
organizational and economic spillovers from spaceflight initiatives. A range of
such „giftsš to the private sector will be profiled and located within the
preliminary categories initially defined. The key background argument will be
that a sizable proportion of NASA‚s past undertakings can be fairly described
as „experimental development,š in which exploratory engineering and integrative
scientific practice strove to overcome the liabilities of incomplete knowledge,
project complexity, inhospitable working environments for humans and
technology, continuing (if not continuous) redesign, and the resulting
customized production. Although NASA profited from prior U.S. Air Force (USAF)
efforts and from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics‚ (NACA‚s)
capabilities, in materials science, communications, human factors engineering,
project management, and other fields, NASA projects represented metaphorically
(and perhaps pragmatically) an elaborate, durable network of laboratory and
field experiments, generating knowledge and technologies far beyond the fiscal
and staffing capabilities of private-sector research and development (R&D)
units. It may be that this broad range of ultimately useful, even propulsive,
findings has been underappreciated in an era when market pulls and pushes are
regarded as engines of creativity. If so, this work will suggest that a more
complex process was in place and working well in the sixties, seventies, and
The Political Economy of Spaceflight
Stephen B. Johnson
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs
This paper will outline the economic history of space
activities from its inception to the present. Given the strong interactions
between the government and private industry, this necessarily requires a
„political economyš approach to the subject. In particular, the paper will
provide a subdivision of space activities into economic markets and will
provide time-series economic data or other economic figures, where available,
for each, along with a short description of the factors at work over time in each
area that influence the growth (or lack thereof) in each market. These
subdivisions will include familiar sectors such as telecommunications, launch,
and navigation but will also include less familiar sectors such as science,
technology R&D, human flight, education, insurance, and media. The paper
will highlight the tremendous influence of national and international policies
and regulations on the opportunities for and constraints on private-sector
institutions and will also note the important role of nonprofit institutions
such as universities and government-funded research and development centers in
the economic interactions in many sectors. Given that the sources of data are
relatively few, the paper will, through the references provided, necessarily present
a (short) historiographic snapshot of the subject.
The Role of Space Development in Globalization
James A. Vedda
The Aerospace Corporation
Hundreds of books and countless articles have been written
since the mid-1990s about the phenomenon of globalization. A Google search on
the term „globalizationš yielded 18.8 million hits in September 2005, a number
that multiplied almost six times (to 109 million) by March 2006. Amazon.com
displayed at least 120 new books on the subject that were scheduled to be
released between September 2005 and mid-2006. Despite this impressive volume of
literature, the author has been unable to find mainstream globalization
discussions that directly address the effect of space development on
globalization (and vice versa) other than cursory acknowledgments of the role
of satellite communications as an enabler of globalization.
has been identified as the dominant global trend that has replaced the Cold
War. During much of the Cold War era, all sectors of U.S. space activity had
fairly well-defined roles. If globalization is the successor to the Cold War
paradigm, then space development must redefine itself appropriately. This is
not a simple task, since debates rage as to where globalization is headed and
whether the net effect will be good or bad. Although globalization debates
primarily address economic, social, and environmental issues, the continuing
influence of space development on globalization cannot be ignored or viewed in
isolation from these issues.
study will highlight the role of space development in the emergence of the
current era of globalization and discuss how space activities will continue to
influence this evolving process. Globalization, in turn, will influence the
course of space activities. The study will address the positive and negative
implications of this, taking into account the risk of a backlash against space
development stemming from antiglobalization efforts.
Technological Sharing and Soft Power: Space Technology as
an Instrument of U.S. Foreign Policy in the 1960s
Georgia Institute of Technology
International collaboration was part of NASA‚s mandate.
While originally focused on space science, this international mission soon
expanded to include the far more delicate domain of space technology. Beginning
in the 1960s, NASA began to look at ways of sharing space technology with
allies that had embryonic space programs. Such sharing by the leading space
nation is a form of what Joseph Nye calls „soft powerš: „Soft co-optive power
is just as important as hard command power. If a state . . . can support
institutions that make other states wish to channel their activities in ways
the dominant state prefers, it may be spared the costly exercise of coercive or
hard power.š To achieve „channelingš without coercion, NASA officials had to
navigate perilous shoals: they were solicited by U.S. industries keen to enter
new markets and encouraged by the State Department to be active in steering
foreign space programs along particular paths—but they were also harried
by the Department of Defense and other parts of the administration who feared
that technological collaboration would undermine national security and threaten
U.S. commercial interests in key sectors. This paper will explore the arguments
used to promote sensitive space technology (inertial guidance, cryogenic
propulsion) as an instrument of „soft power,š shaping technological
trajectories, but also building institutions and commercial and political
alliances in Europe and in Japan.
„From Farm to Forkš: How Space Food Changed Food Safety
NASA Johnson Space Center and Quest: The History of
Food scientists faced two major issues as NASA worked on
Project Mercury: one, how to prevent food from crumbling and floating into
instrument panels or contaminating the capsule‚s atmosphere, and two, how to
ensure that the food system would be contamination-free. To solve these issues,
NASA worked closely with the Pillsbury Company. Pillsbury tackled the first
problem by developing bite-sized snacks made with an edible coating to prevent
the food from crumbling.
second matter proved to be more difficult. Eventually, the company developed
the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) process to ensure food
safety for the flight crews. HACCP prevents food contamination by identifying
and monitoring hazards, rather than finding problems with a finished product.
The concept has two steps. The first is hazard analysis, a study to identify
anything that might result in food poisoning. Everything is examined: the
ingredients, the manufacturing plants, the product storage, packaging, and even
directions for use. The second step involves the monitoring of critical control
points: anyplace in the chain of processing food, from farm to fork, where
contaminants could compromise food safety.
This paper will study the
commercial and societal impact, both domestically and internationally, of the
HACCP idea as well as lessons learned. Once used solely to ensure the safety of
the astronaut‚s food supply, the idea spread and began to be employed by
industry and government in the 1970s. When an outbreak of botulism in canned
potato soup threatened food safety in 1972, the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) adopted an HACCP system for low-acid canned food. Since then, the FDA has
adopted HACCP for the seafood and juice industries as well as for meat and
poultry processing plants. Government agencies from the European Union and
Australia have also implemented HACCP systems, based on Space Age technology.
The Social and Economic Impact of Earth Observing Satellites
Ray A. Williamson & Henry R. Hertzfeld
The George Washington Unviersity's Space Policy Institute
Governments have become increasingly interested in measuring the outcomes of investments in research and other public goods. Earth observation technologies, which provide information about different aspects of Earth systems and the use of resources, are excellent examples of public investments that provide direct socioeconomic benefits. The United States and many other countries now depend heavily on Earth observing satellites to support weather forecasting, natural resources management, and national security, among other national and international needs. Loss of these systems would have severe negative affects on the U.S. economy and national security.
To many, their value seems obvious. Yet, we lack definitive quantitative data on the benefits from these systems. Although the benefits of certain activities, such as maintaining national security, or protecting citizens from natural hazards resist quantification, these aspects can be qualitatively described in such a way as to gain a useful understanding and appreciation of their individual and collective value.
This paper summarizes the results of current research aimed at quantifying the economic benefits and understanding the non-quantifiable social benefits of Earth observation systems. It focuses on examples of the use of Earth observations data to mitigate the effects of severe storms and other natural hazards, reduce the risks of weather and climate to the energy industry, and to improve water resources management.
Session III: Application Satellites, the Environment, and
Overview: Satellites and Security: Space in Service to Humanity
Erik M. Conway
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Although the space race began with the launch of
Earth-orbiting satellites (i.e., robots) by the Soviet Union and the United
States, most historical attention has gone to the elite handful of transients
(astronauts and cosmonauts) both nations have launched into space at the cost
of hundreds of billions of dollars (rubles in the trillions). While perhaps
reflecting the futurist dreams of conquest and colonization, and the continuing
power of Jackson Turner‚s „frontier thesis,š this is a mistake.
Intelligence satellites stabilized
the Cold War standoff by permitting rigorous study of our enemy‚s military
status, casting out the paranoid fears of the 1950s (at least until recently!).
Weather satellites have saved thousands of lives, and very likely tens of
billions of dollars in agricultural losses, by revealing tropical cyclone
formations long before they make landfall and by improving the quality of daily
forecasts—particularly in the largely poor southern hemisphere.
Scientific satellites charted Earth‚s magnetic field, mapped (and continue to
map) its gravity field, examine and monitor the annual evolution of the
Antarctic ozone hole, and, since 1999, have provided a torrent of information
about humankind‚s great geophysical experiment with our climate.
Rarely does a month go by without Science and Nature publishing articles by NASA Earth scientists. Much of this new
knowledge is profoundly disturbing, leading to deliberate, widespread political
attacks on NASA research. But my bookshelf contains precisely nothing about the
evolution of NASA‚s Earth science programs. Intelligence satellites are only
somewhat better studied. Yet it is these programs that have provided the
greatest benefit to humanity. They have revolutionized our understanding of our
world and our place within it. They have dramatically altered our politics.
Where have we historians been?
Societal Impacts of Applications Satellites
David J. Whalen
IOT Systems, LLC
For Americans of the 20 th century looking back at the 15 th century, the most important event was the “discovery” of the Americas by Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492. For Americans of the 25 th century looking back at the 20 th century, the most important event is likely to be the landing of a man on the moon on July 20, 1969. These perceptions of the past are always limited, but perceptions of the present can be equally limited. Applications satellites have probably affected more lives than the moon landing. Two kinds of applications satellites are part of the lives of most of the people on earth. Anyone who watches television is benefiting from the hundreds of communications satellites launched since Sputnik 1 opened up the Space Age. Our weather forecasts—especially of violent storms—have become extremely accurate thanks to the dozens of weather satellites launched since Sputnik 1.
Many defense intellectuals view reconnaissance satellites as the most important product of the Space Age—arguing that they prevented World War III. Both the United States and the Soviet Union were dragged into World War II by sneak attacks in 1941. Military navigation satellites allowed American submarines and strategic bombers to know their exact positions under extreme conditions. Both of these applications, land remote sensing and navigation are dual use technologies (military and civilian) that are becoming commercially important. It should be noted that the Global Positioning System (GPS) is still a military system—in spite of the many civilian, commercial uses of the system—and “commercial” land remote sensing satellites are still dependent on defense contracts.
In the half-century since Sputnik 1, applications satellites have grown to become a $100 billion industry. They have helped to make the world a global village—and a safer, more connected village than it has ever been before.
NASA and the Environmental Movement: Where Science and
W. Henry Lambright
The advent of the Space Age paralleled the rise of the environmental
movement. NASA was born in 1958, a year after Sputnik. The environmental
movement in the United States began in its modern incarnation in 1962 with
Rachel Carson‚s Silent Spring. The
photographs of Earth, taken from Apollo, helped galvanize the first Earth Day
in 1970. They became enduring symbols for the environmental movement‚s concerns
about the fragility and vulnerability of this planet.
NASA is a space agency, a science
and technology agency, and an environmental agency. It does not make environmental
policy, but its activities provide new scientific knowledge that impacts
environmental values and thus the political debate over policy. There are at
least three ways NASA has related to the environmental movement and, more
broadly, environmental policy over the years.
First, NASA‚s satellites have
revealed pollution and various impacts of industrial civilization. These have
included ozone depletion and climate change. Over the years, NASA has evolved
an Earth sciences program that is clearly a „Mission to Planet Earthš (and at
one point used that phrase as its official designation). NASA is the largest
component of the interagency U.S. Global Change Research Program.
Second, NASA‚s mission from Earth to the Moon and planets has generated better
understanding of the home planet through a new field of comparative
Third, NASA is seen by some
environmentalists as a problem rather than a solution through its creation of
space debris, use of nuclear materials in spacecraft, and possible contamination
of Earth or other planets with bacteria foreign to them.
Thus, NASA has been and is a force
in relation to the environmental movement. Its history shows that NASA has been
mainly a positive contributor to environmental consciousness and policy. That
history and the present are nevertheless controversial. NASA sits uncomfortably
at a boundary between science and policy. To the extent that environmental
policy is contested, the science and technology on which it can be based
becomes part of the political debate.
The Military, Civil, and Commercial Impact of the Navigation
Signal Timing and Ranging (NAVSTAR) Global Positioning System
Headquarters Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force
After describing the origin and technical evolution of the
Global Positioning System (GPS), this study analyzes the system‚s military,
civil, and commercial impact around the globe. Going beyond the history of the
on-orbit constellation and ground control element, it examines the burgeoning technology
of the user segment. Some nations have augmented GPS to meet specific needs or
have begun developing separate, alternative systems. The United States, Japan,
India, and Australia all have devised GPS augmentations. Russia‚s Global
Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) and the European Space Agency‚s Galileo
will compete with, but potentially complement, GPS capabilities. These and
China‚s proposed independent Beidou system illuminate how nations or coalitions
have come to value the uninterrupted availability of space-based signals for
extremely precise navigation, positioning, and timing.
Although fully operational for
little more than a decade, GPS has become almost indispensable to the success
of an astonishing variety of human activities. These fall into five broad
categories: determining one‚s location, going from one place to another,
monitoring the movement of other people or objects, mapping an area, and
achieving precision timing. Athletes, dispatchers, doctors, farmers, fishermen,
foresters, geographers, hikers, mariners, miners, pilots, policemen, soldiers,
surveyors, and people doing many other things have improved their knowledge,
performance, or safety through the use of GPS. Specific examples help convey
the different kinds, and the rapid growth, of GPS applications, thereby
suggesting the scope of the system‚s social, economic, political, military, and
scientific value as of 2006.
The Intersection of Military and Civilian Applications:
American Security in a Truly Global World
University of Central Florida
In the early days of the Space Age, for diverse reasons, the
U.S. government embarked on the dual-use distinction. Their view was that space
activities could easily be divided into peaceful/civil purposes and military
purposes. This distinction in practice is unsustainable, but it was convenient
for arms control purposes during the nuclear arms race. The effect was to delay
the advancement of several areas of civil or commercial space applications for
nearly 30 years. The paper proposed here examines, first, the impact of the
dual-use concept and its effect on civil/commercial space applications; second,
how that situation changed with the end of the Cold War and the lessening of
security restrictions; and third, the destabilizing aspects that may occur for
a space-dependent U.S. military. The areas on which I will focus are the
changes in remote sensing (including weather), navigation, and communications
satellite policies as the most obvious area of change. The changes occurring
are not merely technological, that is, improvement in the scale of images
provided or accuracy of positioning information, but the fact that these
formerly militarily dominated areas have become engines for economic growth and
improvement in productivity. As a consequence, these applications are driving
the commercial sector to become more truly international in scope and
operation. Early space pioneers often envisioned a world united through the use
of space applications, but that never truly happened because of national
security restraints. Those security restraints are not gone entirely,
especially in the American case, but the spread of technological competence
regarding space technologies has reduced, if not removed, the ability of any single
power to control these areas of activity. The image projected by these changes
is a cooperative, peaceful world, but the U.S. military‚s focus is upon the
potential of space technologies to disrupt the U.S. economy and security
operations. Earth-orbiting satellites are especially vulnerable to the actions
of others, with little immediate prospect for defense. The long-term military
impact is likely destabilizing as the U.S. ponders pursuing measures insuring
the security of U.S. space assets, whether military, civilian, or commercial.
Reconnaissance Satellites and National Security
James Madison University
One of the most significant byproducts of space exploration
was the impact it had on American national security policy. This impact operated
on at least three different levels. First, it led to the establishment of new
national security bureaucracies. In the process, it transformed the nature of
the intelligence community by adding new players and altering the allocation of
resources. Second, it altered the conduct of intelligence gathering. Human
intelligence (HUMINT), the traditional staple of intelligence work, gradually
began to lose out to signals intelligence (SIGINT), PHOTINT, and electronics
intelligence (ELINT). Third, reconnaissance satellites altered the manner in
which states interacted by introducing a new area of conflict and cooperation
into bilateral and multilateral relations.
paper will chronicle these impacts. More important, it will assess them for
American national security policy. It can be seen that while, on the whole,
these impacts were initially positive, over time they became a source of
problems. With regard to their impact on the intelligence bureaucracy, it is
now clear that the intelligence community became increasingly frayed over time
and difficult to manage. With regard to espionage, it is now clear that the
information obtained from these systems overwhelmed the ability of collectors
and analysts to digest and understand it. Finally, where reconnaissance
satellites contributed greatly to the Cold War security system that developed
in piecemeal fashion between the United States and the Soviet Union, it does
not seem to play that role in the global war against terrorism.
findings point to the conclusion that the societal impact of space exploration
is heavily contingent on context and time and cannot be directly inferred from
the technology employed.
Session IV: Social Impact
Overview: Space History from the Bottom Up: Using Social History to Interpret the Societal Impact of Spaceflight
NASA History Division
Social history, or what is often referred to as “the new social history,” was firmly a product of the 1960s, but not the 1960s the space community knows as the Apollo Era. Tensions over civil rights, gender relations, and an unpopular war in Vietnam inspired historians that entered the profession in the tumultuous decade to focus attention on groups that previously had been on the sidelines of American history, including women, minorities, and ordinary people. As social history expanded, its practitioners borrowed methodologies from other academic disciplines. One group turned to quantitative methods to interpret changes in the material conditions of daily life, while others laid a foundation for cultural history by employing ethnographic techniques to explore the belief systems, rituals, language, and symbolic behavior of discreet communities. The field also broadened its topical scope and provided new insights on a variety of themes in American and world history, including immigration, social movements, education, crime, work, family life, social networks, sexuality, globalization, and consumerism.
Although the fields emerged in the same decade, social history has had a meager impact on the practice of space history. Yet, opportunities abound for examining the role of the space program in the lives of individuals and communities from a social history perspective. In lending support to studies on the experiences of women astronauts, the attitudes and aspirations of Apollo engineers, and space ideology in American culture, the NASA History Division has acknowledged the benefit of broadening space history beyond narratives of technological development, politics, and heroic individuals. Realizing the full potential of space history from the bottom up, nonetheless, requires a more explicit consideration of the analytical innovations of social history.
This paper will suggest possibilities for examining the history of spaceflight through the lens of social history, focusing primarily on the themes of ritual, education, labor, race, gender, economic mobility, and social networks. The most basic step for incorporating the concerns of social history into the history of spaceflight is to recognize as viable subjects for historical analysis all individuals and social groups involved in space endeavors regardless of their social standing. Adopting a social history perspective also requires dispensing with the notion of one-way impacts and instead understanding the space program as a site of human activity in which individuals, social networks, communities, and institutions are all active participants in the process of change. A third concept to borrow from social history is the notion that individual and group identities—how we see ourselves and how others see us—are social creations that vary across time and place. With these basic concepts and the literature of social history as a foundation, this paper will raise questions for further exploration regarding the role of the space program in creating the conditions for the formation of social networks, expanding opportunities for social and economic mobility, and providing a forum for the negotiation of values and conceptions of race, gender, and status.
Space Science Education in the U.S.: The Good, the Bad, and
Foothill College and the Astronomical Society of the
After recounting a very brief history of astronomy/space
science education in the United States, we will look at the various arenas
where space science education takes place today, including K–12 and
college classrooms; museums and planetaria; written and broadcast media; the
Web (including blogs, podcasts, and the latest technology); community groups,
fairs, and camps; and so on. Each arena presents special challenges and opportunities.
We will look at different measures of the public appeal of space topics and
think a bit about how educators have made use of this appeal in each arena. It
is now hard to imagine a science textbook that does not include images and
ideas from modern astronomy and the space program. We‚ll also mention the rise
of „antiastronomyš pseudoscience and its media-driven popularity.
At the same time, there has also
been a substantial change in the community of „astronomy interpretersš in the
United States. Thanks in large measure to more than a decade of educational
investments by the NASA division formerly known as the Office of Space Science,
a new profession has emerged in the country—the space science education
and public outreach (EPO) professional. This new profession now has a journal,
annual meetings, and a number of awards, but not yet the kind of official
certification that established professions usually have. New members of the
profession enter from three sides: science, formal education, and public
information. Integrating this diversity is a complex issue. It is fair to say
that the future of the new profession is still uncertain, particularly in view
of current federal funding issues.
Racism, Sexism, and Space Ventures: Civil Rights at NASA in
the Nixon Era and Beyond
Professor Kim McQuaid
Lake Erie College
Until recently, race and gender issues remained an almost invisible
part of the story of the early Space Age. Civil rights, the women‚s movement,
and spaceflight occurred simultaneously. But they were analyzed as if they
occurred in separate universes. Such was not the case. There was a social
history of the Space Age. The exclusion of women and racial minorities from key
portions of America‚s civilian space effort also affected the political
credibility of spaceflight.
books on how the U.S. Astronaut Corps stayed closed to women and then
reluctantly opened to them after 1978 tell part of this story. But the
political struggle immediately preceding that opening is far less understood.
This essay tells the story of the African American women who were NASA‚s key
change agents regarding the racial and gender integration of the U.S. human
addition to clarifying the interplay of sociopolitical change within and around
NASA, the essay also casts light on race and gender tensions within affirmative
action. It concludes that NASA‚s political lags on race and gender issues
within a conservative, White, male, military test-pilot and engineering-focused
organizational culture induced more cooperation among groups being
discriminated against than conflict among them. It also demonstrates how
professional Black women played important „bridge leadershipš roles in this
process of organizational conflict and accommodation.
NASA Launches Texas into Orbit: The Political, Economic,
and Social Impact of the Space Agency on the Lone Star State, 1961–1969
Kevin M. Brady
Texas Christian University
October 1958, the United States government, with the approval of President Dwight
D. Eisenhower, established NASA to explore space for the benefit of humankind.
In May 1961, NASA accepted President John F. Kennedy‚s challenge to send a man
to the Moon and return him safely to Earth by decade‚s end. Four months later,
NASA Administrator James E. Webb announced that the space agency had selected
Houston, Texas, over some 20 other cities as the site for the Manned Spacecraft
Center, which would serve as a command post for the nation‚s Apollo program.
Although Webb cited numerous reasons for the selection of Houston, political
pressure from Texas Congressmen Olin Teague and Albert Thomas played a key role
in the site selection. With the newly established Manned Spacecraft Center in
Houston, the space agency achieved Kennedy‚s goal of landing a man on the Moon
in July 1969.
By the early 1960s, NASA was
responsible for an average of 10,000 jobs in the Houston area through civil
service and contractor-related employment. Aside from establishing new jobs in
Texas, NASA also caused space-oriented firms to relocate within the state.
Texas universities and colleges also benefited from the space agency by
receiving federal grants to conduct space research. Additionally, NASA affected
Texas by creating new residential and commercial areas. The space program not
only changed the face of the Houston area, but it also affected the entire Lone
This study focuses on Texas between
1961 and 1969 in an effort to examine the impact of the space agency on the
Lone Star State. A number of historians have written about the various NASA
Centers and spaceflights during the late 20th century, but few works discuss
the economic, political, and social impact of the American space program on
state levels. The work will demonstrate that the space agency assisted in the
development of Texas during the late 20th century.
JPL and Southern California
creation, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena influenced and reflected
the surrounding region of southern California. It worked with and spun off
local aerospace firms but also competed with them in the local labor pool; it
attracted publicity to the local community, but also a backlash because of
environmental pollution; and it plugged into Hollywood through its work in
digital image processing. Southern California as we know it would not exist
without aerospace, and the evolving relations between JPL and the region
illustrate how space programs, military as well as civilian, helped transform
southern California from Sunbelt orange groves to high-tech metropolis.
Witnesses to History: Space Memorabilia as Evidence of the
Space Program‚s Impact on American Culture
Margaret A. Weitekamp
National Air and Space Museum
As curator of the Social and Cultural Dimensions of
Spaceflight collection at the Smithsonian Institution‚s National Air and Space
Museum, I propose to explore the implications of space memorabilia as evidence
of the societal impact of space exploration on American culture. Using specific
examples from the National Collection and citing scholarship on material
culture, this paper will explore how space memorabilia serve alternately as
evidence of the social history of space exploration, as fodder for the booming
business in creating and collecting such items, and as unexpected „museum
pieces,š now that space workers, collectors, and their heirs are donating these
valuable ephemera to museums across the country.
The social history of the space
program is a history „from the bottom upš of the massive mobilization of people
whose work made the big science technologies and programs of space exploration
possible. Those who worked on space projects, either as NASA employees or as
contractors, were often rewarded or recognized through the presentation of
commemorative items (e.g., pins, patches, stickers, or more substantial
objects). Such mementoes served to maintain morale, support work quality, and
sustain momentum, while also marking their owners as participants in and
witnesses to history. Furthermore, because space work often required the
relocation of entire families—and the creation of new
communities—space memorabilia can also remind us of the larger contexts
in which this effort was embedded. The widespread impact of the space program
on a significant segment of the American workforce can be seen through an
examination of space memorabilia. The collection of space memorabilia by the
general public and by cultural institutions, two other topics that will be
explored in this paper, offers two other ways that such ephemera illustrate the
societal impact of space exploration.
Session V: Cultural Impact
Overview: Constructing National Narratives: Perspectives on a Cultural History of Spaceflight
Ask space historians from the United States to name the most important and influential event in the history of space exploration, and they will cite the Apollo Moon landing in 1969. Pose the same question to Russian space historians and they will recall the flight of Yuri Gagarin in 1961. American space historians would be surprised to learn that few beyond the United States remember or care about Apollo while Russians find it shocking that few Americans have even heard of Gagarin. Why do two nations that have engaged in essentially the same endeavor---to move humans off this planet---have such fundamentally different perspectives? The answer lies in how each nation constructs its own grand narrative on space exploration, one that encompasses how a society aspires to the heavens, how it perceives and reacts to that aspiration, and how it remembers it. All of these things are contingent upon cultural assumptions embedded in institutions, values, artifacts, and norms in each national context. Consequently, without an understanding of how cultural assumptions shape and are shaped by space exploration, a history of spaceflight is nothing but a partial history of spaceflight.
My goal in this paper is to suggest some approaches for reconsidering the cultural history of spaceflight as a way to rethink the relationship between spaceflight and culture. I structure my paper around a number of very broad themes: language (e.g., the language NASA uses to communicate to the public), ritual (e.g., astronaut rituals, hero worship of astronauts), performance (e.g., movies, music), power (e.g., privileging knowledge about space as a mark of global power), ideology (e.g., nationalism, modernity, utopianism), and identity (e.g., masculinity). These categories are, of course, neither immutable nor mutually exclusive, but they represent alternative strategies for approaching the history of spaceflight without resorting to the clichés of programs, artifacts, progress, and heroism. What they all suggest is that our collective memory and perception of space exploration are firmly contingent upon cultural assumptions that are constantly changing, reformulated, and limited to particular contexts. Ultimately, this paper will raise important questions about the construction of particular national narratives on space exploration and how these narratives engender a kind of authority that obscures marginalized perspectives on space exploration.
S/CETI as Fiction: Communicating the Dream of a Better
De Witt Douglas Kilgore
How does a new science gain credibility in the public
imagination? This paper explores how the search for extraterrestrial
intelligence (SETI) is depicted in the S/CETI (search for/communication with
extraterrestrial intelligence) novel, a subgenre in American science fiction
with formal links to science writing and mainstream fiction. The S/CETI novel
differs from more general first-contact narratives (or adventures) in that it
seeks to explain SETI science in ways that honor the rationale and the spirit
of that research agenda. In it, discovery of and communication with
extraterrestrial intelligence are the springboard from which the differences
that divide humanity can be addressed. In James Gunn‚s The Listeners (1972) and Carl Sagan‚s Contact (1985), for example, the conflict around race, both
real and imaginary, is the fundamental barrier to be overcome. These narratives
dramatize the hope that the acts of discovery and exchange will ensure the
survival and prosperity of the human species. Thus, in S/CETI fiction,
scientific aspiration is inseparable from our social and political hopes. It is
in this way that SETI gains its place within the social language of our
Spaceflight's Impact on Literature and the Arts
Astronautics is unique among the sciences in having its origins in an artform. From the first realization that the world we live in is not unique, human beings began imagining what it might be like to visit places such as the Moon and Mars. This occurred at a time when the Earth itself was being opened up to exploration, so it only seemed natural to expect the new worlds being discovered in the sky to be some day explored as well. Long before scientists and engineers considered the problem of just how this might be done, countless authors had put their minds to it---with results that ranged from ridiculous to prescient. In the four hundred years since Galileo discovered that the Earth was not alone, writers and artists have served several important functions: They have served to inspire---or, in other words, they have caused their predictions to become self-fulfilling---and they have acted as mirrors or gauges of contemporary interest in spaceflight. Today, astronomers and space scientists freely acknowledge the debt their sciences owe to science fiction and space art.
The People‚s Telescope: The Impact of Hubble on Culture
Space Telescope Science Institute
When Galileo peered through his small telescope 400 years
ago, it resulted in an unprecedented period of astronomical discovery. The same
might be said of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), which, in its first 15 years
of operation, has had a similarly profound impact on astronomical research.
But Hubble‚s influence has extended
far beyond the realm of science into the popular imagination and culture of the
day, bringing the wonders of the universe into millions of homes worldwide.
Familiarity with the telescope‚s exploits and interest in its iconic imagery
have made a cultural icon of the instrument itself, transforming it into the
The accessibility and popularity of
Hubble imagery and data have spurred the use of its pictures, enhanced its Space
Age cachet, and given astronomers newfound understanding of the universe in a
wide variety of applications. I will review the impact of HST science and
imagery on the general culture as derived from various studies and evaluations,
from literature to the arts to pop references and icons. I will also show
Hubble‚s impact on the formulation of the cosmic questions that the public
finds most intriguing today and will offer views on the implications for
continued societal interest in the exploration of space.
Myth Without Frontier? Outer Space and the European
Alexander C. T. Geppert
Freie Universität Berlin
This paper presents the very first
findings of a comprehensive research project on the cultural history of outer
space, space travel, and space exploration in the European imagination of the
20th century. Proceeding from the observation that the currently thriving
interest in space as a category of historical analysis—frequently labeled topographical or spatial turn—and the better-established historiographical field
of „space historyš have not often been juxtaposed in the past, the project
analyzes intersections and contact points between science and fiction from a
European perspective and pays specific attention to exemplary sites and situations
in which instruments, technologies, modes of representation, and mental
concepts themselves contributed to the production of phantasmagoric
fact that much work on the European space effort, its historical meaning, and cultural
impact still remains to be done, I will limit myself to presenting and
discussing three broader conceptual issues: First, where do we have to look in
order to locate what kind of repercussions? And why is it such a complex and
possibly futile task to try to identify and measure such impact? Second,
has a distinctly European version of outer space evolved, especially after
1945? Or were the Apollo flights, for instance, subject to such carefully
orchestrated, far-reaching global media coverage that they gave rise to the
same process of mythmaking afterwards? Third, while the persistence of the
so-called American „spacefaring visionš has, time and again, been attributed to
the deep-rootedness of the frontier myth in popular culture and the public
imagination, is Europe‚s version of outer space best characterized by the lack
of such a key metaphor and commonly shared belief system? Distinguishing between space exploration and its impact
cannot but constitute a provisional separation. Spaceflight already affected
society and culture long before it existed.
Session VI: Ideology and
Overview: Ideology, Advocacy, and Exploration: The Interplay of
Values and Beliefs with Spaceflight
American conceptions of self and nation draw on a deep pool
of prevailing ideologies. What is the relationship of these conceptions and
ideologies to the U.S. space program? How have prevailing American
ideologies—of progress, rugged individualism, manifest destiny, free enterprise—shaped,
directed, or otherwise affected spaceflight? How has spaceflight affected
prevailing ideologies? How have U.S. space advocacy and space activist
movements and initiatives reflected, interpreted, and deployed these
ideologies? What roles have advocacy and activism played in the history of
space exploration? Why do space advocates continue to turn, whether wittingly
or unwittingly, to Frederick Jackson Turner‚s turn-of-the-century frontier
thesis and the idea of manifest destiny for rhetorical inspiration?
How deeply is the ideology of
progress, that idea of necessary and inevitable forward movement, embedded in
the rationale for space exploration? From the legislative history of the Space
Act to the President‚s Vision for Space Exploration, historians have a rich
supply of material to mine in exploring these questions. These and other
questions will be addressed in this overview talk. This paper will focus in
particular on examining the rhetoric of space exploration as a way of studying
the role and function of ideology and advocacy in the history of spaceflight.
Space Activism as an Epiphanic Belief System
NASA Johnson Space Center
of interaction with young people in the space industry and in space activist
groups led to my observation that many such individuals can cite a quite
specific life event that triggered a lifelong interest in or commitment to
creating a space future. I am particularly intrigued by parallels between such
experiences and the phenomenon of epiphanic experiences among committed
Christians. I see analogies between the puzzlement among space activists and
among Christian groups as to the reasons why so many people are „unbelievers.š
At a small international meeting on lunar exploration in
2003, I heard two separate lunch speakers cite such personal experiences. At
the beginning of a break in that meeting, I grabbed the microphone from the
chairman and asked each person to write down on a pad by his or her chair
whether or not he or she had experienced a specific event that led to his or
her involvement in space. If the answer was positive, I asked for a brief
narrative, for their age at the time, and for their current age.
I received 53 submissions, 20 percent of which simply
stated that their involvement in space exploration was happenstance. (Apollo
astronaut John Young was among these.) The other 80 percent of the submissions
had specific stories. The ages at the time of the epiphany ranged from 4 to 47,
and their current ages ranged from 22 to 78. I will present a high-level
characterization of these inputs.
Interest in space exploration as a form of belief system
is consistent with choosing NASA goals for the purpose of „inspirationš and
with phenomena such as the „overview effect.š More research might explore what
form the transcendent experience takes and whether it might be associated with
feelings of universal connection such as the noosphere or „the Force.š From a
pragmatic point of view, outreach strategies for exploration should focus on
giving individuals access to personal, potentially transformational experiences
as opposed to astronaut talks at civic clubs.
Reclaiming the Future: The Space Program and the Idea of
Taylor E. Dark
California State University, Los Angeles
the idea of progress is clearly central to American national identity, the
popularity and credibility of the idea have undergone significant fluctuations
over the course of American history. This paper assesses how the onset of space
travel stimulated a societal revitalization of ideas of progress that, by the
early 1970s, were coming under increased attack. The idea of progress has
typically advanced three claims: 1) there are no fundamental limits on the
human capacity to grow, however growth is defined; 2) advancements in science
and technology foster improvements in the moral and political character of
humanity; and 3) there is an innate directionality in human society, rooted in
social, psychological, or biological mechanisms, that drives civilization
toward advancement. American believers in progress quickly embraced space
travel, viewing it as a vindication of the doctrine‚s original claims about the
near-inevitability of human advancement. With space travel understood in this
fashion, the problems and successes of the space program took on a far greater
meaning than in other areas of technological endeavor, as they became symbolic
of the entire directionality of human civilization. The early and astonishing
success of Apollo, followed almost immediately by signs of disarray, served to
stimulate a new vision of progress and then quickly threaten it. In this
context, a space advocacy literature arose that was simultaneously grandiose
about the human future and intensely fearful about missed opportunities. This confluence
of both ambition and anxiety continues to characterize both the pro-space
movement and the larger debate about the American future in space.
The U.S. Space Movement and Space Program Opposition
University of Alberta
response to public sentiment following the successful lunar landing of Apollo
11, politicians brought an end to the Apollo program and began a long period of
retrenchment in the U.S. civilian space program. These actions led to the
creation of large groups of space enthusiasts that have worked to build public
support and lobby politicians for a more aggressive civilian space program and
the creation of conditions where humans could again move beyond low-Earth
its beginnings in the 1970s, the American space movement has been characterized
by conflicting goals and clashing ideas about how to reinvigorate America‚s
space exploration programs. Many of these disagreements arise from differing
viewpoints on the role of government in general and NASA in particular. A
popular belief amongst space enthusiasts holds that NASA‚s growth in its first
decade leading to the Apollo Moon landings was a normal, if not inevitable,
event and that the string of budget reductions that followed constituted an
aberrant reverse. Proponents of space exploration also have varying perceptions
of the degree of public support for the U.S. civilian space program. Some have
overestimated the degree of public support for space exploration, and others
have not appeared to take public opinion into account at all. Space exploration
advocates have also been divided by differing goals, including the matter of
human versus robotic exploration, and varying exploration priorities.
This paper will examine the effects of these
goals, ideas, and disagreements on the efficacy of the U.S. space movement and
will also look at public opposition to large-scale efforts in space. While some
opposition to space exploration has been stated bluntly and openly, much of the
opposition relates simply to the public and politicians placing higher values
on other priorities. These competing priorities vary with political and
cultural outlooks among members of the public, and this paper will examine how
these different outlooks relate to space exploration.
Are We a Spacefaring Species? Acknowledging Our Physical
Fragility as a First Step to Transcending It
M. G. Lord
In the popular culture of the last century—the science
fiction novels of Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury, for example, or the iconic
TV series Star Trek—human beings
have envisioned a future for themselves as galactic travelers.
In the last 40 years, engineers,
many at NASA‚s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, have sent robots throughout the solar
system—mechanical pathfinders who returned tantalizing pictures of new
worlds. In the next 40 years, humans will attempt to set foot on these
worlds—planets many times more distant than our Moon; worlds truly apart.
Engineers have demonstrated the
technical know-how to build a craft that will transport a crew to, say, Mars.
But there is a catch. In recent months, biomedical researchers working in
relative obscurity have begun to raise a big unanswered question that tends to
be overlooked: Can the human body withstand a prolonged journey into deep
rays—high-speed heavy ions that come from exploding stars outside our
galaxy—pose a potent threat, not just to astronaut bodies, but also to
the efficacy of medications and the nutritional value of food. The threat
cannot easily be eliminated through shielding and may require a solution that
has yet to be devised.
In some ways, we are a fragile
species, ill-suited to survival outside the atmosphere, gravity, and magnetic
field of Mother Earth. This idea belies the can-do ethos of the astronaut in
popular culture. Yet rather than denying our physical frailty, acknowledging it
may be a useful first step in devising the scientific strategies necessary to