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The Militarization of Space

International Conference “Embattled Heavens: The Militarization of Space in Science, Fiction, and Politics” from April 10 to 12 at Freie Universität Berlin

№ 101/2014 from Mar 31, 2014

The Emmy Noether Research Group “The Future in the Stars: European Astroculture and Extraterrestrial Life in the Twentieth Century” is organizing an international, transdisciplinary conference to be held April 10 to 12, 2014. The conference deals with the military dimensions of outer space during the twentieth century. More than 20 lectures will be devoted to outer space as a location for utopian border crossing and the history of outer space as a battlefield of the future. The event is public, but prior registration is requested. Journalists are welcome, and arrangements can be made for interviews prior to the meeting. The conference language is English.

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

Link to the Conference Program


Further Information

Dr. Alexander Geppert, Director, Emmy Noether Research Group “The Future in the Stars: European Astroculture and Extraterrestrial Life in the Twentieth Century,” Tel. +49 30 838 568 99, Email: alexander.geppert@fu-berlin.de