Re-imagining the space age. Early satellite development from Earthly fieldwork practice.

Gemma Cirac Claveras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Imagining space technology has been influenced by (usually American-centred) turning points in rocketry, launchers, space exploration and human spaceflight: principally in terms of techno-bureaucratic Big Science products embedded in Cold War rivalry, military and prestige objectives. While this representation is useful to understand many developments of the space age, it has tended to downplay the role of natural history practices of data collection and interpretation in the development of space technology. The notion of sociotechnical imaginary helps to reveal a more complex and complete understanding of the history of space technology. Between 1967 and 1973, the vision of the French remote-sensing satellite as both enabled by and an extension of aircraft photo-interpretation helped to shape scientific and technological expectations of remote-sensing technology. In turn, the practices, values, and visions of aircraft photo-interpreters informed the development of satellite remote-sensing work. In particular, the fieldwork-driven research mode, focusing on data collection and field observations, was an important part of satellite technology development –a tie which remains strong today. Approaching remote-sensing satellite technology through historical research not only suggests a particular way of imagining space technology within the tradition of field science practices, discourses, and history, but also allows us to reflect on the power and limitations of prevalent imaginaries to fully understand the space age and its place in history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-186
Number of pages24
JournalScience as Culture
Volume31
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2021

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