Faux Victorian Rag - "Space Archaeology"


space archaeology

in the last few days my mind has been heavily preoccupied with a conversation i had on tuesday on the topic of space debris — what happens to old, decommissioned satallites, jettisoned chunks of space craft and the remanants of space exploration. today in an excitingly fortuitous moment of synchronic conceptual continuity, I stumbled on a book that discusses this very topic on the always incredible BLDGBLOG site.

More after the jump.

Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology, and Heritage edited by Ann Garrison Darrin and Beth Laura O’Leary (CRC Press).

The Handbook is an endlessly fascinating mega-collection (1,015+ pages!) of essays about the science of space archaeology: the study and preservation of artifacts and sites related to human space exploration, including “everything from launch pads to satellites to landers on Mars.” Lost spacecraft, failed missions, “graveyard orbits,” and the Apollo 11 landing site all make extended appearances in the book, interpreted as examples of the space-archaeological record. “For example,” we read, “the location of one human footprint on the Moon in situ is an archaeological feature that defines one of the ultimate events of humankind and is a part of the physical and temporal record of all the engineering research and development that made it possible.”

The book is full of amazing factoids—we learn, for example, that, “Surprisingly, the Viking 1 lander, which remains on Mars, is considered part of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum,” suggesting a distributed, inter-planetary museum of inaccessible earthly objects—and eye-popping new fields of study, such as “the role archaeologists might play in understanding the material culture of extraterrestrials or other intelligent species, once the physical evidence is scientifically verifiable.” The book even describes a kind of computational archaeology, by which “the heritage created by robots in the form of their artificial intelligence” would be both studied and preserved.

Courtesy of Faux Victorian Rag.

For more from this blogger, check out an interview with him on a previous episode of Biology of the Blog.