Mar 13, 2017

Ruth Rand

"Orbital Watchdogs: Astronomers Against the Pollution of Outer Space during the Cold War"

With the launch of Sputnik in October 1957, astronomers around the world anticipated a revolution in observational practices that would open previously inaccessible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum to study. As data from the first satellites facilitated a shift in scientific understanding of Earth’s physical influence in the solar system, many astronomers and physicists expressed concern that humankind had begun to pollute near-Earth orbit, with dangerous implications for future research. From the beginning of the Space Age, astronomers around the world positioned themselves as the appropriate watchdogs for a newly accessible environment at risk, and fought the expansion of the industrial exosphere into the nearest regions of outer space.

Event Details

Mar 13, 2017



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