The Popularisation of Space

Sarah Lieberman

From Lippershey to Rosetta: Europe's contribution to the popularisation of space. While many assume space popularisation has been a largely North American phenomenon based on the space race, the moon landings and science fiction coverage of space travel, outer space has stolen the imagination of the human race for much longer. Although the twentieth century saw great leaps forward in terms of space travel, space exploration, scientific knowledge and popular engagement with space, the 'popularisation' of space has European roots and began much earlier.In 1608, Hans Lipperhey lodged a patent in the Netherlands for the earliest version of a telescope, and the following year, another European, Galileo Galilea, built his own telescope, saw the stars and set us on a pathway of engagement between popular culture and space technology. From John Donne to David Bowie, popular European artists have used outer-space as inspiration. However, European space projects are not limited to pop-culture. In November 2014 the ESA spacecraft Rosetta orbited and landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko; in January 2016 the British Tim Peake undertook a space-walk, broadcast live. This paper will argue that European space missions are gaining in importance and are thus gaining ground on the USA in terms of capturing the imagination of the public. Looking at the historical engagement between space technology and pop culture, this paper will ask: is popular 'knowledge' more desirable than scientific 'knowledge'. Or does popular 'knowledge' help us to disseminate technological information. Do we need the filter of popular culture to create a cultural identification with outer space?

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