Developing and building rockets as terror weapons was the most complex and perhaps the least efficient project of German armament during the Second World War. There are several strategic reasons why Germany did this anyway, and there were two cultural motives to promote this project, both connected to the significance of technology for modern societies. First, technological progress promised a non-transcendent salvation, tantamount to "Endsieg" within wartimes, and owning and using the most advanced military technology was considered to prove the cultural superiority of the German nation. This consideration was not only aimed at rockets, but at a whole set of new weapons as the last hope in the war. Nonetheless, the rocket was unique within this ideology of progress. As the second motive, rocket technology fascinated contemporaries because it opened new opportunities to explore new frontiers, thereby expanding the civilized world. This fascination drew on the rocket and space euphoria of the 1920s and seamlessly led to postwar astroculture. It is for this reason that the armament site of Peenemünde has been identified exclusively with rocketry and considered to be a pure space center.
Studying the religious aspects of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) and spaceflight in an American and European context, centering on the twentieth century, arguably uncovers an underlying myth, or mythological complex, which structures religious imaginations of outer space. This mythological complex cannot be separated from the spatial organization of outer space in the imaginations of space enthusiasts and depictions in cultural media. It is rooted in Judaic-Christian apocalyptic thinking, as well as various mythological representations of the journey as a vehicle for enlightenment and transcendence. The mythology of outer space religion transverses different nations of the Western world and parallels elements of Russian cosmism. Therefore, in trying to uncover the mythological dimensions of the Space Age one cannot delimit a specifically European Space Age mythology. Rather, one must acknowledge that there are elements of astroculture which are transnational and form a common context for both European, American and, to some degree, Russian space endeavors.
This presentation reflects on the sharing of knowledge, expertise, and experience in the development and popularization of the planetarium over the twentieth century. Focusing on the planetariums in Berlin and Jena both before and after the Second World War, it tracks the various communities that intersected in the planetariums: astronomers, engineers, cultural commentators, and the public at large. Hence, the planetarium serves as a case study in developing a cultural history of science that considers intersecting networks of cultural discourse, knowledge production, technological innovation, pedagogy, and urban experience.
Being key to long-term future visions of spaceflight and international peace since the interwar period, large-scale rocket technologies during the Second World War unveiled their destructive capabilities. Against this backdrop of utopian and dystopian potentials, various interest groups after 1945 debated rocket technology as a token of desirable and menacing future outlooks. The late 1950s saw a wider public engagement not only with the ambivalence of technology, but with the continent’s past and prospects. By the early 1960s, rocket technology seemed indeed more international and European, but had lost most of its utopian relevance. Arguing that technology played an important part in the development of new political cultures in both post-war German states, the presentation traces shifts in networks of engineers, industrialists, politicians and journalists in times of professionalization and Europeanization.
Arguing that the view of Earth as seen from space was not the result of American or Soviet space exploration, this presentation traces the 'whole-Earth' motif back to the end of the nineteenth century. Decades before the renowned space photographs Earthrise (1968) and Blue Marble (1972) were taken, authors, filmmakers, and scientists envisioned Earth not only as a singular entity but also visually depicted it as seen from outer space. A closer look at images of the whole Earth from 1880 to 1972 in the Western world reveals that they have been linked to a variety of concepts that profoundly shaped human self-understanding, notions of nature and the environment as well as visions of the future. Thus, rather than showing the Earth 'as it really is' such images served as sites of contest, where ideas about cosmopolitanism, progress or environmentalism were played out. In analyzing several case studies and focusing on both the history of the 'whole-Earth' motif and the different rationales it was supposed to conceive, this paper discusses a long adversarial process of transition in the image, people have of their 'dwelling-place', themselves and their (cosmic) environment.
From 1954 until 1985, Berlin-born Rüdiger Proske (1916–2010) produced and directed numerous television documentaries for the West-German network Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), many of them about science, technology and society. During the 1960s several of them covered manned spaceflight and the space race, and the best production was Zum Mond und weiter (To the Moon and Beyond) broadcast in two parts on February 8 and 10, 1966. Its skillful mixture of NASA films, documentary footage and conversations with – mostly German-born – engineers and scientists perfectly expressed the spirit of the Space Age and delighted many space buffs. There was another way to reach outer space sitting in front of a West-German (and East-German) television screen: Starting on September 17, 1966, the seven-part series Raumpatrouille: Die phantastischen Abenteuer des Raumschiffes Orion (Space Patrol: The Fantastic Adventures of Spaceship Orion) told of the epic war between Earthmen and Earthwomen and the extraterrestrial Frogs. Until today the show remains the best-known and best-loved piece of cosmic Fernsehen in West Germany.
The major limitation of deep space travel is either speed or the human life span. Over the course of the twentieth century, intensive care medicine has made dramatic advancements to prolong human life. Yet, when it comes to deep space travel, existing medical progress is not enough to overcome the simple obstacle of the universe's unimaginable vastness. For this reason, space discovery is now widely considered a domain for non-human explorers such as probes, drones and robots. Dystopian fears of future man-machine wars play with this motif and remind us that evolution is as much anthropocentric as the universe itself.
Analyzing literature, film and scholarly texts, this presentation explores fictional and non-fictional narratives of spaceflight that focus on death. It traces shifting notions of life and death in outer space from 1920s Russian astroculture to the present day. Both early science fiction classics such as Neil R. Jones' Professor Jameson's space adventures and cinematic milestones including Forbidden Planet (1956), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Alien (1979) or even Star Wars (1977ff.) deal with either sophisticated technoscientific solutions to biological restrictions, pure Darwinist survival-of-the-fittest-scenarios or invisible undead forces that can save or kill. All of them reflect on the three options that humans have in space: death, immortality or rebirth. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, however, the death care industry offers a fourth possibility. Space burials are no longer a privilege for ill-fated astronauts but rather a way to ensure an eternal, albeit materialistic relationship with space.
This opening presentation pursues five goals. First, it recapitulates the research program, key questions and conceptual agenda that the Emmy Noether Group "The Future in the Stars: European Astroculture and Extraterrestrial Life in the Twentieth Century" has been exploring and advocating since its inception in 2010. These include, namely, outer space as a utopian site par excellence; astroculture as a concept; Europeanization of space history; and cosmic expansion vs. otherworldly transcendence. Second, it charts the ways in which this program has been executed both individually and collectively, culminating in a series of five conferences including Ufogeschichte (2011), Envisioning Limits (2012), Sounds of Space (2012), Embattled Heavens (2014) and Berliner Welträume (2015). Third, the paper positions the project's multifaceted findings within mainstream historiographies of the twentieth century, in particular on the Cold War, the 'transatlantic century' (Molly Nolan) and the 1970s. Fourth, it suggests the globalization of the study of astroculture as the next logical step, arguing that the making of our planetized present must be regarded as a direct consequence of the Space Age. Last but not least, it introduces 'Europe' and 'the future' as the two feature themes of this particular gathering, the Emmy Noether group's final countdown.
This paper explores the textual and visual dialectics of twentieth century reflections on the Space Age through several case studies. I will discuss several cases of allegedly 'iconic' space imagery – the first TV image of Mars, Blue Marble, Pale Blue Dot – in order to demonstrate how dominant interpretations of these images were tied to certain preconceptions about the Space Age and its implications for the human condition, and, on the other hand, how they contributed to altering subsequent reflections on the Space Age and its societal impact. The images are discussed particularly with reference to their production context, distribution patterns, reception by different audiences, and their influence on ideas about the future of humanity in space. The images discussed are relevant to the European context insofar as they were reflected upon by European philosophers – including Günther Anders, Hannah Arendt, Jacques Lacan and others –, thereby shaping the landscape of contemporary European humanities and popular ideas about the near future.
Between 1945 and 1975 Arthur C. Clarke was an eloquent advocate for space travel as a natural extension of human civilization. His greatest fame came through his collaboration with Stanley Kubrick on the 1968 film and novel 2001: A Space Odyssey. This paper draws on material in both the Kubrick archive in London and the 'Clarkive' in Washington, DC to show how Clarke operated amphibiously between science fact and science fiction, providing the architects of the space program with credible myths to inspire the public. His aim, in which he was remarkably effective, was to blur the boundary between present and future in order to bring about a Space Age in his own lifetime.
When the first reusable sortie lab – better known as Spacelab – was launched into orbit in December 1983, it not only marked Europe’s entry into manned spaceflight but was also believed to herald a new era of scientific research in space. Yet Spacelab was not merely a success for Western European space ambitions. Since it served the peaceful exploration of space it came in handy for the United States as well as since it represented a much welcomed contrast to the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Equally announced in 1983, this military program was met with much anxiety and criticism worldwide for turning space into a full-scale battlefield. Analyzing the media coverage of the first Spacelab flights up to 1985, this paper addresses a period in which military and dystopian ambitions in outer space collided with peaceful and utopian ones. Public perceptions of the Spacelab program thus offer insight into contemporary hopes and visions for a future in the stars and, moreover, shed light on the nature of space policy in a time that was increasingly dominated by political insecurities and conflict.