UCL Mathematical & Physical Sciences


Towards a Better Understanding of Space Exploration Rationale

27 November 2019

A team featuring academics from UCL Science and Technology Studies and the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, in collaboration with the Science Museum, held their final workshop this week, looking at questions of humanity and space.

The project team, featuring STS and MSSL academics

In November, an international and multidisciplinary group came together at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory to discuss the questions “how and why do human cultures explore space?” and “what does it say about humankind that we go into space?”, The aim being to discuss the social and anthropological perspectives of space exploration. The workshop was the third in a series that also looked at how space exploration is represented in museums, and multi-disciplinarity and diversity in space exploration.

Attended by those from the museum sector and academia, including research areas such as space archeology, the participants sought to gain new perspectives on the cultural and social aspects that have underpinned the UK’s space programme. Reminiscences were given from MSSL staff spanning the full 52 years of its research and engineering programme prompting discussions about the role of physical location and community. Items of space hardware on display at MSSL acted as a catalyst for discussions around material culture and how to engage a wide range of audiences through the stories that these items can tell.

A public event was held in as part of the workshop and gave an opportunity to reflect on how our ideas and understanding of the Solar System have changed over the last 50 years. In particular, how we now understand that the Earth is situated in the extended atmosphere of the Sun and how long-term aspirations for human exploration of the Solar System may need to be balanced against our responsibly to protect distant environments and preserve their pristine conditions and provide answers to long-term science questions. 

The workshop was the third in a series, following earlier events at the Science Museum in August, and the European Space Agency’s ESTEC centre in the Netherlands in October. The six-strong Project Team includes Prof Jon Agar of UCL Science and Technology Studies as co-investigator, and Prof Lucie Green of MSSL as Local lead for Workshop 3.

For further details please see https://www.sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk/project/culture-space-towards-a-better-understanding-of-space-exploration-rationale.