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Monday, February 27, 2012

Space Exploration and the Humanities

Space Exploration and the Humanities

Good news for those interested in the relationship between space exploration and the humanities and social sciences. The book Imagining Outer Space, edited by Alexander CT Geppert is finally out. You may remember that I wrote about it some time ago. You may want to take a look at the website of Palgrave MacMillan, the publisher:

On related news, "Envisioning Limits: Outer Space and the End of Utopia," a sequel conference to the "Imagining Outer Space" symposium, which was the basis of the book, will take place in Berlin at the end of April. Please see for further details, some of which are provided below in this posting:

Envisioning Limits:
Outer Space and the End of Utopia

Berlin, 19 - 21 April 2012



Program (>pdf)

Abstracts (>pdf)

Bios (>pdf)

updated: 10.02.2012

If space exploration is understood as not just one of the twentieth century’s most prestigious feats of engineering, but also a central theme in period visions of the future and utopias, then how might we understand the transition from the 1960s to the 1970s, with its emphasis on re­duced possibilities and limitations to progress? The conference aims to shift the focus away from explanations of transition from Cold War contexts and produce more nuanced narratives: from the familiar struggle between two superpowers, namely the USA and the former USSR, to dis­tinctly West-European perspectives, and from political to socio-cultural dimensions of the Space Age. How were limits created, chal­lenged and maintained? And in what sense was outer space invoked to transform cultural boundaries and how were these conveyed to different audiences? The conference will look at utopia not as a so­cio-cultural objective but rather as a process. Through defining limitless opportunities afforded by outer space, advocates of space exploration not only opened up new possibilities for accelerating or even surpassing human development, but also delineated the historicity and limitations of the imagination.

Conference speakers include Debbora Battaglia (Mount Holyoke College), Martin Collins (National Air and Space Museum), David A. Kirby (University of Manchester), John Krige (Georgia Institute of Technology), Agnes Meyer-Brandis (Universität der Künste Berlin), Roger D. Launius (National Air and Space Museum) and Helmuth Trischler (Deutsches Museum).

For further information and to register please contact the conveners Alexander C.T. Geppert, William R. Macauley and Daniel Brandau at There is a conference fee of 50 € (concessions 25 €) to cover the cost of food, drinks and refreshments during the event.

Conference Venue

Harnack-Haus der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Ihnestrasse 16-20
D-14195 Berlin

THURSDAY, 19 April 2012

09.00 Introduction

Alexander C.T. Geppert, Daniel Brandau, William R. Macauley:
The 1970s, Western Europe and the Delineation of Space

09.30 Feature Presentation I

Martin Collins: Ambiguities of the 1970s: Spaceflight and the Problem of Historically Interpreting the In-Between Decade

11.00 Panel I: Transitions

Andrew Jenks: Transnational History and Human Spaceflight

Doug Millard: Were the 1970s a Period of Transition for the History of Britain’s Exploration of Space?

Program (pdf)
Abstracts (pdf)
Bios (pdf)

updated: 10.02.2012

Chair: Paul Nolte

14.00 Panel II: Pictures

Robert Poole: '2001: A Space Odyssey': Space Travel and the Ends of Progress

Ralf Bülow: The X Files: Reading a West German Sci-Tech Magazine from 1969 to 1973

Chair: Thomas P. Weber

16.00 Panel III: Laws

Luca Follis: Beyond Law’s Frontier: The Normative Imaginary of Outer Space

Virgiliu Pop: The Moon Agreement and the Beginning of Utopia

Chair: Peter Becker

19.00 Feature Presentation II

Agnes Meyer-Brandis: Space Traveling: A Performence-Lecture Examining Real Utopian Aspects of Interplanetary Exchange of Idea and Matter

FRIDAY, 20 April 2012

09.00 Feature Presentation III

John Krige: Blowback, Lift Off: The Rise of Ariane and the Decline of U.S. Monopoly of Access to Space in the 1970s

Chair: William R. Macauley

10.15 Panel IV: Politics

Matthew H. Hersch: 'On the Edge of Forever:' 1972 and the New American Space Consensus

Neil M. Maher: Ground Control: Space Technology, Environmentalism, and Détente Across the Developing World

Chair: Etienne Benson

13.00 Panel V: Texts

Florian Kläger: Reading into the Stars: Cosmology and Self-Reflexivity in the British Novel of the 1970s

Aleksandra Idzior: Images of Extraterrestrial Life and Designs for 'Out-of-Space' in Poland during the 1960s and 1970s

Chair: Matthias Schwartz

15.00 Panel VI: Aesthetics

Christina Vatsella: Artworks in Orbit: The Satellite Art Projects

Thore Bjørnvig: Unlimited Play in a World of Limits: The Lego Classic Space Theme, 1978-80

Chair: Claudia Schmölders

17.00 Panel VII: Prospects

Philippe Ailleris: Red Soil, Phonograph Records and United Nations Resolution 33/426: Our 1970s Extraterrestrial Heritage

Janet Vertesi and Lisa Messeri: The Greatest Mission Never Flown: Mars Sample Return, Terrestrial Planet Finder, and the Limits of Utopia

Chair: Debbora Battaglia

SATURDAY, 21 April 2012

09.00 Panel VIII: Habitats

W. Patrick McCray: Gerard O'Neill’s Visioneering of the 'High Frontier'

Gonzalo Munévar: Space Colonies and their Critics

Chair: Thomas Brandstetter

11.00 Panel IX: Transcendence

Peter J. Westwick: From the Club of Rome to Star Wars: The Era of Limits, Space Colonization, and the Origins of the Strategic Defense Initiative

Roger D. Launius: Human Spaceflight as Religion in the Aftermath of the Space Race

Chair: Helmuth Trischler

14.00 Conclusion

David A. Kirby: General Comment

Chair: Alexander C.T. Geppert

16.00 End

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