Inaugurated in the spring of 2021, NYU Space Talks is a lecture series convened by Alexander C. T. Geppert at NYU's Center for European and Mediterranean Studies and NYU Shanghai with the Department of History in New York City. Each semester, established and upcoming scholars present the latest research on the history and politics of outer space, extraterrestrial life and astroculture, both in Europe and around the globe.
All NYU Space Talks are held on Zoom. Everybody is welcome but advance registration is required.
History, Politics, Astroculture
How to Paint What You Can’t See:
Astronomical Illustration in the Space Age
Lois Rosson (University of California, Berkeley)
Thursday, 24 February 2022, 12:00–13:30 EST
For much of the twentieth century, the quickest way to produce a high-resolution image of outer space was to hire someone to paint it by hand. This talk examines the history of American astronomical illustration, and the process by which it moved out of the observatory and into broader commercial markets. Collective understanding of what outer space looked like increased dramatically over the course of the Space Age, but the creation of visually coherent pictures still required a high degree of manipulation. The astronomical illustrators that professionalized this task developed a specific set of visual conventions to signal the accuracy of their images and changed the look of space landscapes in both the popular and scientific imagination.
The Cosmo-Political: Rethinking the Political in Outer Space
Rory Rowan (Trinity College Dublin)
Friday, 8 April 2022, 12:00–13:30 EDT
What happens to the political in outer space? A number of influential thinkers of the political, including Hannah Arendt, Carl Schmitt and Bruno Latour, have not only taken the Earth to be an implicit backdrop for their theories but have explicitly framed the political as fundamentally earthbound. Further, all three have figured the extension of human activity into outer space as introducing a dangerous disorientation into the foundations of the political. For such thinkers the boundaries of the Earth provide stable markers for the boundaries of the political. This paper questions the position of outer space in such earthbound conceptions of the political whilst pursuing the idea that the expansion of social relations off-Earth may indeed fundamentally reorder the conditions of the political with profound consequences.
/ SPRING 2022
Demonstrating Friendship, Showcasing Parity: Decision-Making in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
Darina Volf (Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München)
Thursday, 14 April 2022, 12:00–13:30 EDT
The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) that resulted in the first joint American-Soviet space mission became an important symbol of détente during the 1970s. The public relations teams on both sides sold the joint space flight as an expression of friendship, and the media around the world promoted the image of a handshake in space that might foster rapprochement between the Cold War rivals on Earth. However, the decision-making behind the scenes was difficult, shaped by anxieties and mistrust. The talk shows how Cold War rivalry entered the American-Soviet space partnership and made parity one of its central questions. The focus on parity affected management of the project, the presentation of ASTP to the public, and even the technology developed for the rendezvous and docking of the two spacecraft.
The Intellectual Roots of Space Law: Jurists, Astroculture and Internationalism in the 1950s and 1960s
François Rulier (Université Jean Jaurès, Toulouse)
Thursday, 12 May 2022, 12:00–13:30 EDT
This talk aims to understand the place of astroculture in the development of space law, focusing on the work of legal scholars in the early Space Age. From a prevailing geopolitical perspective, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty is generally seen as a strategic compromise between the US and the USSR. Yet officials on both sides shared views on the future of space exploration that may have influenced the negotiations. Moreover, they were not alone in constructing space law: the thought and engagement of early space jurists can help to understand what space law was to be and what kind of space exploration was expected. Indeed, the basic principles of space law were already being conceptualized by some legal scholars in the early 1950s, even before space exploration began to be considered a serious issue. In these writings, calls for the internationalization of space were already dominant – in contrast to the evolution of space law today.
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Professor Alexander C.T. Geppert
New York University
King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center
53 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012