What Do Space and Archaeology Have in Common?

On the Space to Grow podcast, Astroscale’s Chris Blackerby and Charity Weeden bring their compelling experience and expertise to map out the technology, international policy, and scalability that will define the next generation of space exploration.

 

What do space and archaeology have in common? One is the future, while the other is the study of the past. However, space has a past, too. Hosts Chris Blackerby and Charity Weeden spoke with space archaeologist Alice Gorman on this exciting new field.

“It is surprising to have space and archaeology in the same sentence. It came together for me one looking at the night sky noticing the stars but also the space junk put into orbit by humans,” Gorman explained.

“There is space debris in orbit from rocket bodies.  Some should be removed, but others may have historical value.” – Alice Gorman

Before that night, she was a traditional archaeologist, but she’d also had a fascination with space since childhood. Now her two passions were one.

This revelation came 20 years ago, and she wondered if there were others with the same questions. Soon, she met two others, John Campbell and Beth Laura O’Leary. At first, the subject was thought to be irrelevant but grew to be a field with impact.

“There’s so much activity in space now, and we’re talking more about sustainability and human interaction with the environment,” Gorman said.

With the growth of the sector came the term orbital heritage. Gorman explained its meaning. “There is space debris in orbit from rocket bodies. Some are useless and come with the risk of fragmentation or collision. Some should be removed, but others may have historical value.”

Keeping some pieces in orbit is akin to the archaeological motto “leave something behind for future studies.” Gorman noted that choosing less risky pieces helps future generations learn how humans first made it to space. “It could track the evolution of change of human technology. Retrieving certain rocket pieces also provides the capacity to look at the space environment on materials.”

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