Dr Space Junk takes on the Universe

The Australian Space Agency’s arrival in Adelaide signals an important reconnection for South Australia with its significant space history, as outlined in a new book by SA’s internationally renowned Dr Space Junk – Flinders University space archaeologist Dr Alice Gorman.

The release this week of her book Dr Space Junk vs The Universe: Archaeology and The Future (published by NewSouth Books) serves as a timely handbook for everyone in the community to best understand the relevance and importance of Australia’s longstanding interaction with space projects.

It traces the deeper history of human interaction with space, and especially a rich South Australian engagement that Dr Gorman is worried most people have largely forgotten.

“In South Australia, we have forgotten our own Space Age,” says Dr Gorman.

“Australia was the third country in the world to launch satellites into space – and that since the Woomera rocket launches in the 1960s, SA has never stopped its association with space.

“If we are really going to be successful in space with our new Australian Space Agency, understanding our space heritage is critical. We need to make people comfortable with the idea that we are a space-faring nation, and that we should be doing this.

“For people to support getting back into the space game, it has to be about more than just the technology. There has to be more diverse stories, and that’s what I’m exploring in the book.”

The book includes a chapter on the moon and lunar missions, including the Apollo 11 mission which celebrates its 50th anniversary in July, and highlights several Australian inputs that influenced the success of this mission.

Dr Alice Gorman, space archaeologist.

Through raising space issues and space history that are rarely discussed, Dr Gorman believes her book will help more people engage with broader aspects of space – which is especially timely on the advent of the Australian Space Agency Mission Control and Space Discovery Centre being introduced to Adelaide.

“My aim for the book is to give people stories they can relate to that makes them feel a part of space,” says Dr Gorman. “This is what heritage and archaeology does; it makes the connection from the past to the present to the future.  To talk about space from a whole range of perspectives gives you a voice and an opinion about what is happening in space right now.

“It will enable more people to get involved with the decision making around space issues – beyond the engineering community.

“Because I’m an archaeologist – not the conventional type of space scientist – I want to tell a diverse range of stories to allow different types of people to make a stronger connection with space.

“In the book, I talk about how space missions became converted into everyday food, such as hamburgers and cocktails, and the rocket parks that everyone loved to play in when they were kids”.

She also introduces the interesting argument that the shadows on the moon from discarded lunar mission objects are also significant archaeological items – that the shadows mean the sites are not still. They’ve altered the temperature and light environment that existed in the landscape prior to the landings.

  • Dr Gorman will be interviewed by Richard Fidler on Conversations, the popular ABC Podcast and radio program, on April 10.
  • An edited extract of Dr Gorman’s lunar shadow analysis concerns has been published in The Conversation.
  • The first review of Dr Gorman’s book has been published at Readings.com
  • Dr Gorman will celebrate the launch of her new book with an event on April 23 at MOD, the future-focused museum of discovery on North Terrace, Adelaide, where Dr Gorman currently has an installation featured.
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