The history of the Space Age is often considered an expansion of the Cold War confrontation between the two superpowers into outer space. Military confrontation in space – whether it was between countries on Earth or against extraterrestrial forces – was a recurring motif not only in science fiction, but also in politics, science, and technology. Cultural notions of outer space and expansionist scenarios were equally influenced by military themes.
From the missile programs of World War II to the plans for a strategic defense shield (SDI) against intercontinental ballistic missile started in 1983 by US President Ronald Reagan and pursued by several of his successors, most of the public investments in space exploration were motivated by military considerations. However, just as the development and application of space technologies cannot solely be explained as a reaction to global conflicts such as the Cold War, these military dimensions cannot be understood exclusively as a dystopian aspect of astroculture. Rather, it is necessary to examine the conquest of outer space as a dynamic process between civilian and military efforts, taking into consideration both its destructive and its productive consequences on Earth and in space.
What is the significance of military motives in the history of space exploration? What is the relationship between civil and military space travel? And what role did science fiction play in the development of space-based weapon systems? The conference participants will address the military dimensions of global astroculture of the twentieth century as well as the significance of conflicts, weapons, and violence in outer space. Individual lectures will be devoted to early concepts of space stations, the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the history of the Global Positioning System (GPS), as well as to space movies, computer games, cartoons, and science fiction.
Conference participants include David Edgerton (King's College London), Bernd Greiner (Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung), Michael J. Neufeld (National Air and Space Museum), Alex Roland (Duke University), and Michael Sheehan (Swansea University).
Time and Place
- April 10–12, 2014
- Henry Ford Building, Freie Universität Berlin, Garystraße 35, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem; subway station: Thielplatz (U3), www.fu-berlin.de/hfb