This presentation rethinks public perceptions of the militarization of outer space by considering satirical cartoons in popular East and West German magazines. In particular, these cartoons challenge the notion that observers of space exploration during the Cold War anticipated a dichotomy of either peaceful exploration or militarization in the cosmos. These satirical cartoons, which featured in East and West German magazines from the 1940s through reunification, demonstrate that East and West German observers had a nuanced understanding of space exploration. The cartoonists simultaneously saw hope, destruction and humor in space, even as they considered its potential militarization. Yet, while they continually offered various meanings for space exploration and predicted various possibilities for the future of space, their cartoons also shared a similar development from the 1950s through the 1970s. In the 1950s, they most often made light of the seriousness with which the US and USSR engaged in space competition; by the 1980s, cartoons routinely focused on the potential for the militarization of the cosmos. While these cartoons speak to East and West perceptions of space, they might also point toward public perceptions of the cosmos more generally. They demonstrate that perceptions of the militarization of space were often not particular to a certain national context and were in fact shared across the Iron Curtain. Therefore, the layers of hope, fear, mockery, and flippancy in these images complicate our perceptions of how citizens on both sides of the Iron Curtain, especially citizens at a frontline of the Cold War, reacted to outer space.
This paper investigates Mars Jars – small environmental analogs of the Martian surface built by the United States Air Force in the 1950s – to argue that the military field of space medicine played a larger-than-appreciated role in the founding of American astrobiology. Most histories of astrobiology – the study of extraterrestrial life – note that the field got its start in 1957, with molecular biologists studying questions pertaining to the origins of life on Earth. However, life scientists working in the field of space medicine first explored questions of life beyond the Earth theoretically in 1950 and experimentally in 1956. The paper’s first section follows the development, use and wider circulation of Mars Jars. Modeled after low-pressure chambers used in high-altitude physiology, Mars Jars were designed to test whether terrestrial life could exist under the atmospheric, temperature and soil conditions thought to exist on the surface of Mars. Bacteria grown under these conditions suggested that microorganisms could survive in alien environments. These experiments were cited in campaigns to sterilize manned and unmanned spacecraft, to avoid forward contamination of the Moon and planets. The second section attempts to explain why these and other contributions from space medicine have been excised from histories of astrobiology and exobiology. It argues that the popular origin story of astrobiology is complicated by contributions from space medicine, the more grisly, military-oriented study of the limits of life. Mars Jars were invented by Hubertus Strughold, a German émigré transferred to the United States in 1947 as part of Operation Paperclip. During the Second World War, Strughold served as head of the Luftwaffe’s aviation medicine program and was charged as an accessory to lethal high-altitude experiments performed on concentration camp prisoners during the Nuremburg Doctor’s Trial. From 1950 until his retirement in 1968, Strughold published 25 articles and books on topics in astrobiology while working as the first professor of space medicine in the US Air Force. He was dubbed the “Father of Space Medicine” and inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1977. However, Strughold’s legacy was tarnished in the 1990s when his wartime connections to the unethical lethal human experiments on concentration camp prisoners were publicized. This presentation suggests that Strughold’s association with fascism and unethical human experimentation, along with the fact that many early astrobiologists came from Jewish families, had Marxist leanings, and were vocal opponents of the military’s role in space exploration, can account for why early contributions from space medicine are missing from most histories of astrobiology.
The Global Positioning System (GPS). Military Origins, Civilian Application, and the Culture of Precise Positioning
For centuries, governments have invested resources in the art and science of navigation. These efforts enhanced military power and facilitated world trade, which in turn enhanced the host nation’s economic power. Lighthouses, nautical charts, astronomical tables, radio beacons – these were available to civilians as well as navies and air forces. The Global Positioning System (GPS), a satellite-based navigation system conceived in the 1970s, was designed from the outset to follow that pattern. It was a system used by all three branches of the US military, but it was also designed to broadcast at least two sets of coded signals: one for the military and a less accurate civilian signal. The civil code was further deliberately degraded by what was called “Selective Availability.” In practice, the degraded civil code was found to be more accurate than planned, and further techniques were developed to give civilians centimeter accuracy. During the 1990–1991 Persian Gulf War, the Pentagon temporarily switched off Selective Availability, which opened up a huge commercial and consumer market not entirely foreseen. Using the language of the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT), the result was the opening of the ‘black box’ that the US Air Force placed GPS into, with the US military now in an uncomfortable position of maintaining and supporting, at high cost, something that is used worldwide for a host of customers, at no cost. GPS remains, however, under US control. That has led other nations, and the European Union, to develop their own satellite-based navigation systems. In doing so, they need to justify the enormous costs against the promise that the US will provide worldwide, free access to these now-much-more-accurate civilian codes. This paper discusses the history of GPS development and concludes with some observations about whether the “closed world” of military uses of information technology, to use Paul Edwards’ term, applies in this case.
Belfast-born writer C. S. Lewis is primarily known for his Chronicles of Narnia series of fantasy novels, but his lesser-known “Space Trilogy,” published in 1938, 1943 and 1945, respectively, is the focus of this presentation. This series of novels represents a moralistic critique of space exploration in an era when technological advancements had started to make the notion of interplanetary travel a distinct possibility. Indeed, for Lewis, human presence in outer space was very much an unwelcome act of militarization, which posed a moral or metaphorical threat to humanity, breaching what he saw as ‘God’s quarantine regulations.’ Lewis’s fictional works have undergone a re-appraisal of sorts in recent years, whereby his novels have been set in the wider context of his Medievalist worldview and a Romantic protest against what he called the ‘scientifiction’ of the early twentieth century. This was characterized by certain trends in scientific culture, such as the increased popularity of the eugenics movement, the mechanization of warfare and the new science fictional futures proposed by writers such as Arthur C. Clarke, H. G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon. These examples and the associated inevitability of militarization in outer space shall form part of the wider context of this presentation, which will then focus on the human body in Lewis’s “Space Trilogy,” particularly that of the series’ protagonist, known as Ransom. What can be seen throughout the series is that Ransom’s body functions as a literary device through which sensations of sickness, violence and healing help articulate Lewis’s warning about the moral dangers of interplanetary travel and the associated advancements in scientific culture.
While sightings of strange airships date back to the nineteenth century, the years 1946–1960 witnessed a wave of reports of “flying saucer” sightings on both sides of the Atlantic. What attention these reports have garnered from scholars has largely centered on self-identified witnesses and contactees in the United States and the United Kingdom. To date, however, few have traced how reports moved across states and regions and what responses they garnered along the way from non-witnesses. This paper addresses these issues by examining how the print media and public intellectuals in postwar West and East Germany reported on and discussed flying saucer reports. The evidence reveals that flying saucer stories were sustained and spread not simply by true believers, but also by a steady traffic in reports within the mainstream press, beginning with coverage of foreign reports, followed by domestic and local sightings, to editorial and op-ed pieces, and then finally larger investigative analyses. While there was a range of responses to the phenomenon in postwar Germany – e.g., considering UFOs hoaxes, optical illusions, experimental weapons, alien inventions – memories of the Second World War as well as Cold War geopolitics figured heavily in how reported sightings were framed and interpreted on both sides of the iron curtain. Suspicions of secret superpower weapons testing, the threat of nuclear war and anti-American stereotypes were consistently invoked to make sense of the possible terrestrial and extraterrestrial origins of the odd airships. For most true believers and skeptics alike, then, flying saucers not only potentially carried crews, but also messages about the prospects for international peace.
In a speech given in September 1995, President Jimmy Carter reported that during his administration a plane had gone down in Zaire and American spy satellites had been unable to locate the wreckage. The head of the CIA, Admiral Stansfield Turner, enlisted the aid of a woman with psychic powers who “gave some latitude and longitude figures,” and according to Carter “we focused our satellites on that point and the plane was there.” This speech not only confirmed the existence of a reconnaissance satellite program and a psychic espionage division within the CIA – two clandestine operations that had been declassified only months before through an executive order issued by Bill Clinton – but also indicated the close connections between these two methods of intelligence gathering. The use of spy satellites – a practice known as “remote sensing” – began in the 1960s with the “Corona” project, which involved the use of satellites to provide photographic surveillance of Communist countries. The use of psychic spies – a practice known as “remote viewing” – began in the 1970s at the Stanford Research Institute under the direction of the CIA. Remote sensing and remote viewing both involved the use of coordinate scanning of distant locations for the purpose of intelligence gathering and military mapping. Remote sensing and remote viewing can thus be seen as applications of what media theorist Paul Virilio calls the “logistics of perception” or the weaponization of optical media. It is also significant that the intelligence provided by remote sensing and remote viewing was of a non-analytical nature, as it was limited to shape, form and material. Like remote sensors, therefore, remote viewers functioned as automata that relayed intelligence without conscious mediation; their performance was assessed solely through a calibration of their ‘bit rate.’ Through a close examination of the concurrent development of remote sensing and remote viewing, this paper shows how space exploration and parapsychology were seen as parallel methods of investigating new areas of knowledge that were subsumed by military interests.
According to historian Walter McDougall, one of the three structural forces necessary to initiate the American space program has been ‘imagination.’ The astonishing accuracy of science-fictional visions in predicting and delineating future technological, societal and historical development, lending an arguably almost prophetic import to such stories, raises the question to what extent the complex relationship between fact and fiction needs to be reconceived as functionally reciprocal and ontologically permeating, so that real-world power relations must consequently be recognized as feeding back into the structuring of the human imagination. What needs to be addressed is the militarization of astroculture itself. As ‘space’ is situated as much in physical reality as in different modes of mental representation, its militarization will, inevitably, also occur on a psychological level, paralleling political and often secretive efforts to take control of the outer borders of the planetary habitat. This presentation argues that astroculture has been territorialized along closely guarded lines of separation, segmenting the lived experience of the modern subject into falsely dichotomic antagonisms between ‘reality’ and ‘fiction,’ ‘belief’ and ‘skepticism’ or ‘science’ and ‘pseudoscience.’ In this view, the pariah status of ufology might be interpreted as an outcome of weaponized intellectual discourse. This paper aims at tracing an ongoing deterritorialization of the ET imaginary, as evidenced in the increasingly realistic portrayals of alien infiltration in three popular works of science fiction: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and The X-Files (1993). The breaking down of the divide between the ‘realistic’ and the ‘fictitious’ has reached its apex in contemporary conspiratorial internet culture. This paper investigates if the overcoming of the artificially erected epistemic boundaries of astroculture might result in the eventual integration of humanity into a larger cosmic framework of astropolitics that is not necessarily dominated by human actors.
Galactic struggles and space wars have long been a staple of science fiction literature, cinema and television. During the Cold War such narratives were particularly apt metaphors of the terrestrial political tensions. However, in the middle of the era another medium was conceived by the scientists who were – not accidentally – centrally connected to the military and industrial sector: computer games. It is not a coincidence that one of the first titles was a science fiction game and that it was a space combat simulation. Designed as a demonstration program for the PDP-1 machine at MIT, Spacewar! (1962) featured battling spaceships, each armed with a supply of missiles and a hyperspace switch for evasion tactics, and controlled by a player using a keyboard/joystick console. Although conceived as purely utilitarian, Spacewar! became the prototype for the first mass-marketed, coin-operated arcade game Computer Space (1971) and forked into a wide range of first arcade and then computer titles, including Space Invaders (1978), Galaxian (1979), Uridium (1986) and Morpheus (1987), to name just a few. The kinetic visual spectacle of these early games strongly influenced SF cinema during the period, especially the classics of space wars: Star Wars (1977) and The Last Starfighter (1984). Despite relative simplicity, the cultural significance of these titles cannot be overestimated. Several generations of gamers grew up engaging in space wars and galactic conquests while the in-game political and military configurations both reflected and shaped the cultural responses to the Cold War. This presentation addresses three distinct approaches to the phenomenon: demarcate this often neglected albeit unusual field of arcade and computer games; analyze the dominant representations of military actions in space in the period; and suggest the ways in which these games had a crucial influence on the cultural imaginaries of the period, often feeding into more prominent cinematic representations and paving the way for such contemporary titles as EVE Online or Mass Effect.
The decision made in 1954 by the United States Air Force (USAF) to proceed with the creation of its first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) was vital to the creation of US military and civilian space programs. In the wake of the controversy that followed the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik in 1957, historians and others criticized the USAF for not having begun its ICBM program much earlier. Yet, a re-examination of the USAF’s actions shows that military and technological factors relating to nuclear weapons, long-range missiles and other delivery systems weighed more heavily in this decision than has been previously acknowledged. Moreover, similar factors led to the Soviet government’s decision at roughly the same time to build its own ICBM. In 1953 and 1954, the creation of thermonuclear or hydrogen bombs meant that ICBMs could be much smaller and have a less stringent accuracy requirement than had previously been anticipated. Advances in rocket technology, notably a way to deal with the previously intractable problem of destructive heating of bodies re-entering Earth’s atmosphere at high speeds, also made ICBMs more feasible. The USAF was criticized for a culture favoring bomber aircraft, but it faced serious challenges creating a bomber force capable of threatening the Soviet Union. Early nuclear weapons were in very short supply and did not lend themselves to use on missiles. These military factors helped decide the timing and form of early ICBMs, and consequently civilian and military space programs in the United States and the Soviet Union. This presentation also examines how development of nuclear weapons affected missile proliferation and space programs in Europe and elsewhere. Changing historical views of Cold War missile and space programs are also discussed.
This presentation introduces the principal themes and conceptual framework of the conference. It discusses the argument that, in the twentieth century, outer space has been envisioned as not only a site of heavenly utopias, but also the ultimate battlefield. It addresses the relation between peaceful and aggressive characteristics of human endeavors in outer space and the military dimensions of astroculture in the period between 1942 and 1990 in astropolitics, technoscientific practices and science fiction. The paper explains the five overarching conference themes: rockets and domination; human spaceflight and heroic utopias; space machines; bodies in space; and envisioning sites of war. Along these lines, a reconceptualization of space history with a view towards its military dimensions is linked to a decentralization of the hitherto dominant Cold War perspective. Guidelines on the conference’s design and overall structure, thus providing all other contributions with a broad framework, will also be provided.
“Weltraumschiff I startet.” The Dual-Use of a Spaceflight-Science-Fiction-Film between Fact and Fiction, V-2 and Sputnik
In 2010 a film, long thought to be lost, resurfaced from the depths of US military archives: Weltraumschiff I startet. This 1938 German science fiction film had been confiscated as Nazi propaganda, since it depicts a heroic trip around the moon in a spaceship which begins from Zeppelin hangars in Friedrichshafen and is monitored from an observatory in “Deutsch-Ostafrika.” It is an artifact of its time, reflected not only by its astrofuturistic visions of spaceflight, but also its rare footage of early German rocketry experimenters and liquid-fueled rockets. Because of the accuracy of its scientific elements, the Third Reich forbade the showing of some parts of Weltraumschiff I startet, even thoughit was made by ‘Kulturfilm’ director and hobby astronomer Anton Kutter. Even more than Frau im Mond (1929) or Kosmicheskiy reys (1936) this movie is an extraordinary Zeitgeist-document from the dawn of the V-2 era. It serves as a missing link between the time when thoughts about spaceflight belonged to hobbyists and originated from techno-romantic ideas, and the time when rocketry finally became a powerful military research item, a “well-kept secret, [...] broken only by the first V-2 missiles dropping onto London.” This presentation analyzes key scenes from Weltraumschiff I startet and relates them to their socio-cultural and political background in order to address the dual (mis)use of spaceflight science fiction. Further questions arise when we consider that ideas and scenes from Weltraumschiff I startet have been re-used in When Worlds Collide (1951) and in The Space Explorers (1958), a post-Sputnik TV serial to teach America’s youth the fundamentals of astronomy. This presentation thus addresses the question of how closely intertwined the relationships between legitimization, popularization and militarization of spaceflight actually are.
“Raumpatrouille – Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffs Orion.” Defending Earth in a German Spaceship
In 1966, three years before the first man actually landed on the moon, a fictional spaceship launched from Earth to explore space and battle extraterrestrial enemies in a TV show that became a worldwide cultural phenomenon: the USS Enterprise NCC 1701 in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. In the same year another ship took off “to boldly go where no man has gone before” and to defend our home planet against alien threats: the Orion VII in the German TV series Raumpatrouille (“Space Patrol”), written by Rolf Honold and W. G. Larsen, and directed by Michael Braun and Theo Mezger. The German series – one of the most expensive TV productions of its time – consists of only seven episodes and never became as famous and popular as Star Trek, but despite of its short run, it still managed to inspire the audience and retains today a loyal cult following in Germany. With an international crew, representing a united mankind without national states, the Orion travels through outer space and faces several dangerous situations, including the encounter with a hostile alien species called Frogs. Thus the series features a mix of fictional approaches to spaceflight and space technology with heroic adventure and futuristic warfare. Raumpatrouille is in many ways very similar to Star Trek and its echoes of the political reality of the Cold War, but on the other hand it is also quite distinctive. In particular, the adventures of the Orion are characterized by a less tolerant and optimistic attitude towards contact with extraterrestrials and a more aggressive reaction in situations of conflict. As a specific German vision of the future, albeit informed by an American tradition of science fiction narratives, Raumpatrouille is firmly rooted in the cultural tension between progressive hope for peaceful global relations, structures and alliances after the devastating experiences of two world wars and the willingness to military action against a powerful ideological enemy, including the use of weapons of mass destruction (“Overkill”), capable of destroying whole planets. It is a science fiction series that reflects both utopian ideas and a political-ideological reality which is dominated by fear of an subversive enemy, by nuclear armament and strategies of deterrent, a European link, as it were, between NASA and NATO.
The capture of space was one of the Cold War’s main and most prestigious objectives. Inextricably linked with this goal was the necessity to adaptthe human body to this new and highly dangerous environment.The extremely hostile surrounding of space demanded an enhanced interaction between life and technology in order to prepare the human body for the undertaking of spaceflight. It was already in 1961 when NASA associated scientists Manfred E. Clynes and Nathan S. Kline described this mission for biological preparation as an evolutionary task. As a consequence the Space Race was at least partially converted into a competition for evolutionary adaption and fitness in space. This scientific utopia converged in a very direct manner with the antagonistic logic of the Cold War: The popular Darwinist idea of the “survival of the fittest” blended with the ideologically propagandized survival of the most successful political and economic system. In this way of thinking, space was not understood as a distinctly military battleground, which was won by armed forces, but as a scientific arena that could be controlled by the most perfect adaption of the human body (as the actual battleground in space). The circulation of Cold War and evolutionary (respectively socio-biological) thought in spaceflight’s body-concepts is presented through selected sources (science, pop-science, pop-culture) demonstrating that Cold War in space followed the patterns of a (post-)evolutionary ‘struggle’ rather than the logic of a direct and militarized warfare.
Space Spies in the Open. Military Space Stations and Heroic Cosmonauts after the Moon Race, 1971–1975
During the early 1970s, the Soviet space program adapted to its defeat in the Moon Race. The glorious Soviet cosmic future of the 1960s seemed far away. The Apollo 11 moon landing, the deaths of Korolev, Komarov and Gagarin, and the failures of maiden flight of the Soyuz and all launch attempts of the N-1 launch vehicle augured a dark era for the Soviet space program. Determined not to lose the Space Race as profoundly they had the Moon Race, the Soviet military endeavored to match US Defense Department activities in space. Spurred by hints of a planned American military Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL), the Soviet space program launched three military space stations in the 1970s. At the time their official designations were Salyut to blend into civilian space station activities. Equipped with high-resolution cameras and armed with a cannon to ward off attacking satellites, the stations were intended to best anything that the Americans had planned. The gyroscopically controlled ship could even rotate around a site to hold its camera steady and record movement. This Almaz series of Soviet military space stations had only one fully successful mission, a mere 81 days in orbit. Moreover, in the competition between manned and machine, man had clearly lost. The US cancelled its MOL program without a single launch in deference to a far more agile spy satellite, the KH-11. Almaz would have been a footnote in the history of human spaceflight had it not been for the one thing. Unlike the Americans who had planned an independent, secret and parallel space program, the Soviet Union had to conduct their spy activities in public view. Their cosmonauts had to play the dual role of satellite spies and human spaceflight ambassadors. While photography shipping activities, they made spaceflight routine for the Soviet public, reinforcing the sense of continuing Soviet achievement in space.
Despite an explicitly peaceful agenda, the structural framework of civilian space science, application and exploration missions is permeated by organizational and hardware legacies of defense systems. Beyond aspects of technology, design and operation of crewed and uncrewed space platforms, this is also evident in the ground segment, particularly in mission control. As derivatives of the US Apollo program, control centers in Europe developed their own idiosyncrasies from the late 1960s onwards, yet remained informed by evolving defense principles and practices. In deconstructing key elements and characteristics of mission control centers and, within them, control rooms as central nodes and nerve centers of operations, this paper traces the entwined nature of civilian and defense aspects – rather than mere static inheritance – in the context of the ground-based architectural setting of science missions. Architecture, here, is seen both as the design of the tangible, physical environment of a facility, and the system architecture governing the collaboration of human agents, software and hardware. Drawing on theory of human-technology interaction and qualitative systems analysis, the paper decomposes the control room environment and the position of the flight control teams, their immediate practices and terminologies. It contextualizes the command and control paradigm of ‘arm and go’ with underlying concepts of human-machine interaction and human systems integration. Finally, the paper highlights the role of the stakeholding organizations and contractors who provide staffing and technical support, and who foster a culture of transparency or opacity of operations in view of the public.
Space war has been cold and passive. The cold mimics the Cold War in which it was born. Space war entails “organized armed conflict between states” – Max Weber’s definition of war – but without the shooting, without kinetic attack. And it is passive because it features non-weapon assets that support military operations indirectly. These assets include satellites for communications, reconnaissance, signals intelligence, global positioning and the like. So important have they become that the major space powers – those that have achieved manned spaceflight, i.e. China, Russia and the United States – invest in technologies to protect their own assets and destroy (or incapacitate) those of their adversaries. This cold, passive war repeats the strange and often convoluted logic of the Cold War. To understand why space became militarized in this particular way, one must therefore return to the Cold War. There are three reasons why there has been no hot war in space. First, the Space Age has been entirely confined to the sixty-eight year period of ‘The Long Peace,’ the absence of Great-Power war from 1945 to the present. Only great powers are capable of conducting space war. Second, within the first decade of the Space Age, the world’s two superpowers agreed to constrain conflict in Earth orbit. Those constraints survived the Cold War and continue to keep space war cold and passive. Not Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), nor George Bush’s deployment of ballistic missile defense, nor the emergence of China as the world’s third manned-spaceflight power has altered the original consensus. Third, the theoretical, realist argument for space war remains as deeply flawed as it was when the Space Age began. The defining statement of that argument, Everett Dolman’s Astropolitik, reveals the fundamental contradictions that have forestalled hot war in space.
Heating Up the Ionosphere and Owning the Weather? High Power Auroral Stimulation in Defense Scenarios and Conspiracy Theories
In 1995, Nick Begich’s and Jeane Manning’s popular non-fiction bestseller Angel’s Don’t Play this HAARP: Advances in Tesla Technology introduced a seemingly new element into the already rich store of motifs conspiracy theories fed on during the 1990s. In Alaska, the US government and military would heat up the ionosphere by using a giant antenna apparatus sending electromagnetic pulses (radio waves) up into the ionosphere which envelops Earth in about 200-300 km height, i.e. on the threshold of outer space. The facility called HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) indeed still exists near Gakona (Alaska), but it is not well known that it had precursors in and outside the US. This presentation sketches out the development of the basic ideas of Auroral Stimulation (starting with an alleged invention by Nikola Tesla around 1940) and explores whether and when defense engineers began to consider military uses of this technology. Further, it discusses when and why public rumors about manipulations of the ionosphere evolved. The argument is that both aspects of the topic – the ‘real’ history of the technology and the conspiracy theories related to Auroral Stimulation – are interrelated. Conspiracy theories should not be understood as mad, dysfunctional forms of thinking, but as distorted reflections of something real, misinterpreted by a frightened, mistrusting and insufficiently informed public. Defense theorists and military engineers did and do indeed create science fiction-like war scenarios of a planetary scale – and these phantasms dovetail with existing conspiracy theories or inspire new ones. Thus William S. Burroughs may have been right in a twisted way when he wrote: “The paranoid is the person in possession of all the facts.”
This paper retraces the history of space mirrors. First suggested by Hermann Oberth in 1923 as a large plate, littered with reflective facets that either shield or concentrate the Sun’s energy from or on the Earth’s surface, the idea of space mirrors has been revived in different historical constellations. LIFE magazine reported in July 1945 that the Nazis would have developed such a “Sun gun” in order to “burn an enemy city to ashes or to boil part of an ocean.” The use of space mirrors as a precision weapon was replaced by the idea to regulate and control the temperature of the terrestrial environment in general. With the beginning of global warming concerns in the 1980s, space mirrors made it into the broad reaction portfolio of geoengineering. They were adapted to the new global threats, visible also in new designs: from the huge single device, positioned more or less stable at Lagrange points to a networked myriad of ‘cloud’ or individually controlled small mirrors, capable of executing multiple tasks. The presentation describes space mirrors not so much in their capacity to make space itself a potential battlefield but as a techno-fiction that explicates environmental conditions themselves, i.e. by making the relation between Sun and Earth operational.
Star Wars – Mars against Venus. Strategy, Science Fiction, and Contrasting Visions of Space Security
In 2003, Robert Kagan famously argued that Americans and Europeans had contrasting attitudes towards the morality of military power, that on “major strategic and international questions today, Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus.” In terms of government attitudes towards the understanding of space security there is truth to Kagan’s statement. While European attitudes to space security are complex, it is true that since the advent of European space cooperation in the late 1950s, American and European attitudes towards space have reflected very different images and aspirations, one emphasizing military capability and the pursuit of dominance, the other stressing cooperation, reassurance and the use of space technology for human security and development. From its inception the American space program reflected a mind-set dominated by the fear of the ‘other.’ The Soviet Union’s orbiting of Sputnik in 1957 triggered fear of Soviet victory in the Cold War and dominance of the planet. The public response was the creation of NASA and the lunar program, but the military program was more central and accounted for the vast majority of American launches. This fear of the extended totalitarian threat was reflected in American science fiction movies of the period such as Them! (1954) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). It can be seen later in the Star Wars period with President Reagan’s denunciation of the USSR as ‘The Evil Empire.’ In contrast, the pioneers of European space cooperation in the early 1960s such as Edoardo Amaldi insisted that it should have “a real European character” and a “peaceful character.” Rather than reflecting fear of the outsider, the space program reflected the lessons of Europe’s twentieth century wars and the idealism of European and wider international cooperation. It was a vehicle with which to embrace the outsider, a vision similarly reflected in both politics and popular culture.
Robert Heinlein’s 1959 novel Starship Troopers is generally regarded as an early and paradigmatic example of military science fiction, a subgenre of science fiction which focuses on intergalactic battles. The novel, set in a distant future where the Terran Federation is at war with a race of extraterrestrial bugs, tells the story of Johnnie Rico, a young man who, almost by chance, enters a military career. While we learn little about the future society depicted in Starship Troopers, one of its features stands out: full citizenship and voting rights are restricted to people who did military service. Since its publication, there has been considerable controversy surrounding the novel (which has been very successful commercially); its critics see it as a typical example of right-wing warmongering. In this perspective the bugs stand for Soviet aggression; their organization is at one point even explicitly called “total communism.” This presentation argues for a different reading of Starship Troopers. Based on Thomas Schölderle’s study Utopia und Utopie, it seeks to understand Heinlein’s novel as an utopian text in the classical tradition. While the majority of critics have focused on the question of “who gets the franchise,” the Mobile Infantry – Johnnie’s unit – is considered as the actual focus of the novel. The Terran Federation is hardly described, but there are endless explanations of military routine. On the other hand, there is – surprising for military science fiction – not very much action in the novel. Ultimately, the battle scenes serve a purpose very similar to the travelogues of Morus et al. In the end, one of the supposed paradigmatic examples of Cold War science fiction is not really much interested in international politics but in portraying the mobile infantry as a utopian entity and the common grunt as perfect utopian citizen.
This presentation discusses the relationship between the concepts of spatial revolution and world society according to Carl Schmitt and Niklas Luhmann, focusing on the connection between global security and orbital satellite systems. In this view, the orbital space above earth has to be addressed in Schmittian categories as a “new space.” Despite the fact that Schmitt himself refused to make such a claim because he linked his space concept to territorial and political relations on earth, the extension of the category to include orbit is illuminating, especially when we consider that orbital satellite systems are mainly targeted at Earth; less than ten percent of all orbital systems are directed outward. In this view military and surveillance systems play an important role in the new world order of ‘global security,’ a term that means a political and normative regime of prevention against violence to secure the communication of world society. This military and political ‘colonization’ of orbit is truly a ‘third spatial revolution’ because it is connected to a new political and spatial order. Schmitt, who did not subscribe to the political and normative consequences of this new order, criticized its phenomena, like the League of Nations or the Treaty of Versailles. He even refused to see the political consequences of space travel and therefore entrapped himself in a discursive ‘fight’ against it. In a more Luhmannian perspective, by contrast, the political characteristics of this revolution can be explained. In Luhmann’s sociology, territorial structures are losing their societal importance, too. But in contrast to Schmitt, Luhmann is open to think about a political world system and a global regime of security. In a combined view of both Schmitt’s and Luhmann’s theory, interdependencies between the orbital colonization by automatic systems on the one hand and the development of a global security order on the other can be analyzed. Therefore, because of its atopic structure the orbit can be viewed as the ‘space of world society.’ In short, my main argument is that the colonization of orbit by Earth-targeting satellites is an important part of the global political regime of security. This colonization marks a new spatial revolution that has to be seen within the context of a fundamental change in the political structure on the planet’s surface.
The Suits of Invasion. Extra-Terrestrial Warfare and the ‘Clothing’ of the Body Politic in Twentieth-Century Fiction
In the midst of the epic war-scenario outlined in Starship Troopers (1959) by Robert Heinlein, we encounter an intriguing type of clothing, namely a combat suit: “Suited up, you look like a big steel gorilla, armed with gorilla-sized weapons.” To overlook the significance of this suit is inaccurate: while, at first sight, the suit appears to be nothing more than a gadget arisen from space-war imagination, insight into its technological design (as extensively described by the narrator) reveals its structural significance. The combat suit transforms the body of the fighting soldier into the ‘body politic’ of the Space Age. By wearing the suit, men and women in space become representatives of a civilization that understands outer space as an area that admits no civilians. Therefore, not only does the clothing of those who fight for terrestrial affairs on other planets strengthen their bodily skills and connects them to information channels, but it also inscribes laws of sovereignty, equality and efficiency, thus reprogramming the wearer’s understanding of culture, sex and morals. This presentation develops as follows: First, starting with Heinlein, it sketches a brief historical outline of the suits in twentieth-century fiction based on literature, comics and film. Second, the historical outline is read against twentieth-century political thought. Successively, as the ‘body politic’ proves to be a ‘political body,’ gender becomes an essential category of interpretation. Furthermore, it demonstrates how the progresses of technology, robot skills and nanotechnology function as fundamental stimulators for the concept of the suit. Third, as the suit aims to make humans match their galactic opponents, its structure is strongly influenced by the abilities, functions and design of the extraterrestrial body (as Heinlein’s novel clearly shows). The history of the space combat suit then can be told only if it reflects on the bodily performance of aliens in fiction.
This paper explores the emergence of public life of anti-satellite (ASAT) weaponry during the late Cold War by showing the role of visualizations in the public understanding of the feasibility of a particular techno-scientific artifact. Along with detailed descriptions of principles of successful application of this space weapons system, a visual imagery was brought to the public with several scientific illustrations: artistic renderings and diagrams. The genre of ‘righteous artist’s renderings’ which provides ‘scientifically correct’ but also dramatic images was heavily influenced by space art. In the 1980s, such images of scenes with successful deployment of ASAT weapons were included in material which aimed to bring this weapon to public attention. This presentation discusses the aesthetics of such artistic renderings with reference to the studies of scientific illustration. While offering a particular case study, it contributes to the discussion on relevant social actors and artifacts, which played a significant role in the envisioning of space warfare in the context of the ‘Star Wars’ decade.