With 234 days to go until IAC2017 kicks off, Dr Gorman is looking forward to the week-long conference which brings together ‘all aspects of human endeavours in space’.
The Flinders University academic, who specialises in space archaeology, is a member of the Advisory Council of the Space Industry Association hosting the congress. She also is a full member of the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists.
So where does archaeology cross over with space?
“Many people consider space the final frontier but they often forget the level to which we have already explored it,” Dr Gorman says in The Investigator Transformed, the University’s 50th Anniversary publication.
“Launched in 1958, Vanguard 1 is the oldest human object in space and it’s still orbiting around the Earth. If we remove it, it loses that title and some of its cultural significance.
“When you look at the key artefacts that have gone into orbit since then, you can make out our combined international history in space exploration.”
The process of space exploration has left a lot of detritus or ‘space junk’ behind which Dr Gorman studies as remnants of a pioneering history that began in the 1950s.
“I want to ensure we don’t take a blanket approach and pull everything we now call ‘junk’ out of space, because some of these items are culturally historic, particularly when they are in their original setting.”
The world’s largest space conference, IAC2017 at the Adelaide Convention Centre in September, is entitled ‘Space: unlocking imagination, fostering innovation and strengthening security’. It will bring together leaders in space exploration – from the heads of major space agencies and astronauts to senior space engineers and policy-makers.
The 2017 congress coincides with several significant space milestones including the 60th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Outer Space Treaty and 50th anniversary of the launch of Australia’s first satellite, WRESAT.
Dr Gorman plans to present her research on space junk in Earth orbit at the congress. She’ll also be discussing her new project, in collaboration with Dr Justin Walsh of Chapman University in California, on the archaeology of the International Space Station.
“The International Space Station isn’t junk just yet – it has many years of mission life left – but an archaeological study will give us new insights into how humans interact with space technology,” she says.
All proposals for presentations at the IAC2017 are due by the end of February.
“I’m interested in space junk as the unique archaeological record of everything we have done in the space age,” says Dr Gorman, whose interest in space began in childhood.
“It tells us how we got into space, who was earliest, who sent the most spacecraft, who has made it the farthest and how we have stayed up there.”
Dr Gorman is creating a map of this space technology history using the launch records from NASA, the former Soviet Union and the European Space Agency.
She wants to ensure that all nations have something in space that identifies that they were part of the exploration, along with a useful prioritisation schedule for future plans to clean up space.
“I would love to go to space but I think I might be quite susceptible to space sickness,” she admits.
“But, even so, I would take that chance if it meant I could see some of my favourite space junk, like the USSR Venera series of landing craft, which I believe still sit dormant on the surface of Venus – where they belong.”
Dr Alice Gorman lectures in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Management at Flinders. Her latest article, ‘Trace Fossils – The Silence of Ediacara, the shadow of uranium’ will appear in the special GriffithReview 55 State of Hope South Australian edition this month. She is a regular contributor to The Conversation.
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