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
'The Widest Practical and Appropriate Dissemination of Information:' Origins and Operations of NASA’s History Program
William P. Barry (former NASA Chief Historian)
Tuesday, 13 September 2022, 10:00–11:30 EDT
Section 203 of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 required the new agency to disseminate 'information concerning its activities and the results thereof.' While the authors and approvers of the Act probably never considered it, this mandate led to the hiring of Dr. Eugene M. Emme as NASA’s first Chief Historian in 1959 and the creation of the History Program. For over 60 years, and under the guidance of six chief historians, NASA’s History Program has struggled to meet that mandate in an environment not often hospitable to historical inquiry. This talk will be an insider’s account of that story.
How (Not) to Become a Superpower in Space: Spacelab, Europe and the Politics of Post-Apollo, 1972–1987
Tilmann Siebeneichner (Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam)
Tuesday, 18 October 2022, 10:00–11:30 EDT
Participation in the Post-Apollo program from 1972 onwards offered the European Space Agency a much-desired entry into human spaceflight. Although its contribution, a reusable laboratory called Spacelab, was highly debated within ESA, the Federal Republic of Germany in particular promoted it as a future 'key technology.' Often praised for its utopian efforts, the history of Spacelab in fact marked a significant turn towards a more realistic space policy in Europe, calling into question former efforts for a strictly peaceful and predominantly inclusive exploration of space. Highlighting national rivalries, global confrontations and technological catastrophe, this talk investigates cultural traditions, political rationales and popular receptions that informed Europe’s controversial entry into human spaceflight.
/ FALL 2022
Aliens in Mexico! Extraterrestrials, Astroculture and Space Imaginaries
Gloria Maritza Gómez Revuelta (El Colegio de México)
Tuesday, 1 November 2022, 10:00–11:30 EDT
In Mexican science fiction produced from the 1930s to the 1970s, iconic characters of daily life came face to face with the imagined inhabitants of outer space, other worldly individuals that ranged from sensual Venusians to wrestling aliens. In pursuit of understanding how outer space and its inhabitants were imagined in Mexico, this talk examines the artistic representations of extraterrestrials in graphic and audiovisual astrocultural products. It analyzes the varied characterizations of the fictional inhabitants of other worlds that were crafted and presented to Mexican audiences by comic book artists, film directors, screenwriters and actors, not only through narratives of adventure and fantasy but also of drama, romance and humor.
Making the Ariane Rocket: European Integration and Europe's Future in Outer Space
Nina Klimburg-Witjes (Universität Wien)
Tuesday, 6 December 2022, 9:00–10:30 EST
Since its first launch in 1979, the European Ariane rocket program has been heralded as a symbol of European integration. However, the rise of commercial companies like SpaceX and the increasing militarization of space have spurred profound debates about the future of the European launcher program – and the future of Europe in space more broadly. Mobilizing work in science and technology studies (STS) and the social studies of outer space (SSOS), this talk explores which kind of space futures are projected onto and realized through Ariane, how they relate to ideals and tensions of European integration, and to changing geopolitical dynamics in the New Space Age.
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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