Friday, May 17, 2019

Key works in lunar cultural heritage: the essential reading list for Apollo 11's 50th anniversary

If you are interested in the issues around managing the cultural heritage values of archaeological sites located on the Moon, these are the key works that you need to read. A bibliography of the broader field of space archaeology and heritage can be found here.

Capelotti, P.J. 2010 The human archaeology of space: lunar, planetary and interstellar relics of exploration. Jefferson NC: McFarland and Company Inc

Capelotti, P.J. 2009 The culture of Apollo: a catalogue of manned exploration of the moon. In Ann Darrin and Beth O'Leary (eds) The Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage pp 421-441 Boca Raton: CRC Press

Darrin, Ann and Beth O'Leary (eds) 2009 The Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage. Boca Raton: CRC Press

Donaldson, Milford Wayne 2015 The preservation of California's military Cold War and space exploration era resources. In B.L. O'Leary and P.J. Capelotti (eds), Archaeology and Heritage of the Human Movement into Space, pp. 91-110. Heidelberg: Springer.

Fewer, Greg 2002 Towards an LSMR and MSMR (Lunar and Martian Sites and Monuments Records): Recording the planetary spacecraft landing sites as archaeological monuments of the future. In Miles Russell (ed) Digging Holes in Popular Culture. Archaeology and Science Fiction, pp 112-172 Oxford: Oxbow Books

Gibson, R. 2001 Lunar archaeology: the application of federal historic preservation law to the site where humans first set foot upon the Moon. Unpublished Masters thesis, Department of Anthropology, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces

Gold, R. 2009 Spacecraft and objects left on planetary surfaces. In Ann Darrin and Beth O'Leary (eds) The Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage, pp 399-419 Boca Raton: CRC Press

Gorman, A.C. and Beth Laura O'Leary 2013 The archaeology of space exploration. In Paul Graves-Brown, Rodney Harrison and Angela Piccini (eds) The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Contemporary World, pp 409-424. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Gorman, A.C 2019 Dr Space Junk vs the Universe: Archaeology and the Future. Sydney: New South Books

Gorman, A.C. 2016 Culture on the Moon: bodies in time and space. Archaeologies, 12(1) pp. 110-128.

Gorman, A. 2014 The Anthropocene in the Solar System. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, 1(1) pp. 89-93.

Gorman, A.C. 2013 Look, but don’t touch: US law and the protection of lunar heritage. The Conversation,

Hertzfeld, Henry R. and Scott N. Pace 2013 International Cooperation on Human Lunar Heritage. Science, 29 November, 342(6162): 1049-1050

Lunar Legacy Project, New Mexico State University.

NASA 2011 NASA’s Recommendations to Space-Faring Entities: How to Protect and Preserve the Historic and Scientific Value of US Government Artefacts. Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, Strategic Analysis and Integration Division, NASA

O'Leary, B.L. and P.J. Capelotti (eds) 2015 Archaeology and Heritage of the Human Movement into Space. Heidelberg: Springer.

O’Leary, B.L., Bliss, S., Debry, R., Gibson, R., Punke, M., Sam, D., Slocum, R., Vela, J., Versluis, J. and Westwood, L. 2010 The artifacts and structures at Tranquility Base nomination to New Mexico state register of cultural properties. Accepted by unanimous vote by the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee on 10 April 2010

O'Leary, Beth Laura 2015 'To boldly go where no man [sic] has gone before': approaches in space archaeology and heritage. In B.L. O'Leary and P.J. Capelotti (eds) Archaeology and Heritage of the Human Movement into Space, pp 1-12 Heidelberg: Springer.

O'Leary, B.L. 2009 One giant leap: preserving cultural resources on the moon. In Ann Darrin and Beth O'Leary (eds) The Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage pp 757-780.Boca Raton: CRC Press

O'Leary, B.L. 2009 Evolution of space archaeology and heritage. In Ann Darrin and Beth O'Leary (eds) The Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage pp 29-47 Boca Raton: CRC Press

O'Leary, B.L. 2009 Historic preservation at the edge: archaeology on the moon, in space and on other celestial bodies. Historic Environment 22(1): 13-18

Reynolds, Joseph 2015 Legal Implications of protecting historic sites in space. In B.L. O'Leary and P.J. Capelotti (eds), Archaeology and Heritage of the Human Movement into Space, pp. 111-129. Heidelberg: Springer.

Spennemann, D.H.R. 2007 Extreme cultural tourism from Antarctica to the Moon. Annals of Tourism Research 34(4):898-918

Spennemann, D.H. R. 2004 The ethics of treading on Neil Armstrong's footsteps. Space Policy 20(4): 279-290

Walsh, J. 2012 Protection of humanity's cultural and historic heritage in space. Space Policy 28(4):234-243 

Westwood, Lisa D 2015 Historic preservation on the fringe: a human lunar exploration heritage cultural landscape. In B.L. O'Leary and P.J. Capelotti (eds), Archaeology and Heritage of the Human Movement into Space, pp. 131-155. Heidelberg: Springer.

Westwood, L. and B. O'Leary 2012 The archaeology of Tranquility Base. Space Times Magazine 4(51)

Westwood, L., Beth Laura O'Leary and Milford Wayne Donaldson  2017 The Final Mission: Preserving NASA's Apollo Sites. Gainesville: University Press of Florida

Westwood, L., G. Gibson, B. O’Leary, and J. Versluis 2010 Nomination of the Objects associated with Tranquility Base to the California State Historical Resources Commission. Accepted by unanimous vote to the California State Register of Historical Resources on 30 January 2010

Saturday, May 04, 2019

All artefacts are anthropomorphic

I was reflecting on the phenomenon of anthropomorphising space technology.

Two social media-mediated incidents are central to my personal experience with this. From my early days on Twitter, I've followed Voyager 2. The account was not an official NASA account: it was run by scientist Dr Paul Filmer. During the now-forgotten US government shutdown in 2013, NASA closed it down. He was allowed to continue tweeting as the spacecraft, but using a different handle - @NSFVoyager2.

I found the impact of this quite informative. I woke up one morning to find people messaging me, wondering why Voyager 2 was silent on Twitter. We figured it had something to do with a recent tweet in which the spacecraft expressed a - very mild - opinion. We tried to reach Paul. I cried. I felt that I was cut off from the solar system, closed in like a fish caught in the ocean and transferred to a glass bowl on a table in the vestibule.

The second is the Rosetta/Philae mission to Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The European Space Agency's public outreach campaign was designed to get people emotionally invested, and it sure as heck worked on me. In 2016 the equipment used by the Rosetta orbiter to communicate with the Philae lander was turned off. As I've written here, knowing that Philae could no longer speak and be heard made me quite emotional, as if a friend had died.

Some are critical about this anthropomorphisation. They would say it's wrong to attribute our agency to things instead of letting them have their own, almost an oppression of things. 

Musing on my bus ride in this morning, it struck me that all artefacts are anthropomorphic, if only because they are made, shaped, used and discarded by humans. They're a non-flesh shadow, the reverse of our obverse, the mirror of our discontent. If they were not, how could we possibly use them to speak to us about absent humans?

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Ten ways to get involved in space without leaving Earth

Experiencing weightlessness, watching the Earth rise over the stark lunar landscape, and seeing the stars exposed without the veil of the Earth's atmosphere: who hasn't thought about what it would be like? At the moment, getting into space is the preserve of the elite, whether they are scientists, military, or those wealthy enough to purchase a rocket ride. Space is a just dream to most of the rest of us.

But this doesn't mean that we have to live as if our feet were made of clay, Earth-bound like a worm when what we really want to do is fly like a bird. There are many ways to be part of space without ever leaving the Earth. I'm going to take you through some of them.

1. Visit a planetarium

Planetariums are dome-shaped cinemas designed to show the night sky and other celestial phenomena. The idea has been around since the 17th century, but today's planetaria use the best of high-tech projection and software to create immersive experiences. For a short time, you can be taken out of yourself and visit the furthest reaches of the universe. Most capital cities have them, and some regional centres too. They're not all stars and galaxies: planetarium shows also look at space junk, space weather, and aliens (hoorah!) among many other spacey good things. Here's a list of some places you can find one:

Wollongong Science Centre and Planetarium (NSW)
Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium (Brisbane)
Adelaide Planetarium
Launceston Planetarium
Melbourne Planetarium
Swinburne Virtual Reality Theatre, (Melbourne)
Ballarat Observatory 3D Theatre (Vic)
Sydney Planetarium
Horizon - the Planetarium (Perth)

There are even mobile planetaria which will come to you! In NSW, contact the Planetarium Education Group; in Queensland, Starlab Education, in Western Australia, the Spacedome.

2. Keep up with the breaking news from space

Subscribing to a space news service is a good way to get all the latest dirt on what's happening in the solar system. Some are more geared towards the general public than others. You can subscribe to their feeds or newsletters, and also follow them on Twitter. is a very reliable and prestigious source of news.
Space Daily has a slightly more industry focus. You can subscribe to their newsletters for free.
Universe Today also covers astronomy.
Space News covers civil space, military space, commercial space and satellite communications business.
Space Ref is a space news and reference site. This includes space exploration and missions, and a space calendar of events.
Space Info features astronomy, Australian science, and spaceflight news
Aviation Week also covers a lot of space news.

Of course, there are a multitude of space resources online that cater to all interests. Starting points for the Anglophones are the NASA and ESA websites.

3. Do some space craft

Spacecraft, geddit? Don't spend all your time staring at the screen as if it will magically whisk you into orbit, get your hands dirty! And gluey and covered in paint, and maybe some glitter. I suppose you can get some kids involved if they're hanging around and won't go away.

Fabulous astronaut masks! made by Erin at Luck and Bliss.
Se7en makes bottle top aliens!
This is rather gorgeous: a 3D space garland from Jessika Hepburn
Doodle and Stitch make a simple but effective paper rocket
Here's another rocket made from a toilet roll - my favourite craft item
This rocket's made from a plastic bottle. You can have space fun while recycling too!

There are some more ideas in this post and there are plenty of amazing space craft projects on the internet.

4. Visit a space museum

Of course, the ne plus ultra of space museums is the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. Another favourite is the Musee de l'Air et de l'Espace in Paris. But you don't have to go overseas to see some wondrous space artefacts. Here's a few more local options.

Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (the Powerhouse), NSW, has the only permanent space display in the country.
Woomera Heritage Centre, SA, also has an amazing rocket park. Not for playing, the rockets are real.
South Australian Aviation Museum, located in Port Adelaide, has plenty of Woomera artefacts if you can't get to the outback.
At the Esperance Museum in WA you can see the remains of the space station Skylab, one of the most famous spacecraft ever to re-enter the atmosphere.
At the South Australian Museum you can see Australian astronaut Andy Thomas' spacesuit!
The Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex, ACT, has a brilliant museum celebrating both Australian and US space.
In Tasmania, don't miss the Grote Reber Museum. This is the heartland of radio astronomy!

Don't forget your local museum or heritage centre either - I've found some extraordinary space artefacts displayed in regional museums and small towns. Often they've been donated by someone who has worked in aerospace or has travelled to space places.

5. Follow a spacecraft on Twitter

This is one of the best things about social media. There are a number of spacecraft with Twitter accounts, and some hilarious parody accounts too. As a follower, you get the latest information and the opportunity to interact with the spacecraft (ie the team running it). But beware. You can become very attached to your robot space friend, and if the mission ends, it can be a very sad and emotional experience.

Here are a few recommendations.

@NSFVoyager2 - Voyager 2. Run by the amazing Dr Paul Filmer, you can expect regular updates on distance from Earth and which instruments are collecting data.
@MarsCuriosity - the Mars Curiosity Rover. This is the only rover still working on Mars after the death of Opportunity in 2019.
@SarcasticRover is a witty parody account which has a huge following. As well as space science, you get commentary about life on Earth from the viewpoint of space.....
@OSIRISRex is a NASA mission to the asteroid belt.
@Haya2e_jaxa is a Japanese asteroid mission with several components, due to return its sample to Earth in 2020.

As well as actual spacecraft, most space agencies, research centres and missions have social media accounts.

6. Celebrate a space event

You can have your own space event whenever you want! Get in some space beer or wine, encourage people to dress up, make a spacey mixtape. Get crafty (see No 3) and decorate your house like a space station or mission control room. Invite your friends and talk about space with them!

There are a few space occasions which are celebrated worldwide. 

Yuri's Night is April 12 and celebrates the day on which Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to enter space and orbit Earth. This is the official website where you can register your party and or find out what events are happening in your town.

A great way to participate in this anniversary is to orbit with Yuri by watching Christopher Riley's film First Orbit, available here. The film blends archival footage and recreations of Yuri's view taken by one of my favourite astronauts, Paolo Nespoli. I love it because it's almost meditative; you have to focus on every minute through Yuri's eyes, seeing a view of Earth that was truly unique.

Later in year is World Space Week, which kicks off on the anniversary of Sputnik 1's launch on October 4th. On the website you can find guidelines about how to organise an event, as well as events planned around the world that you can attend.

I'm going to start a new one: Valentina's Day. On 16 June 1963, she became the first woman to orbit the Earth and she is still the only woman to have carried out a solo space mission. We should celebrate this! 

7. Go satellite spotting 

Although light pollution has made it harder for people in densely populated areas to see the night sky, most people would recognise a star. Fewer, perhaps, realise that they're also watching satellites.

Satellites don't have their own lights, but we can see them when they reflect the light of the Sun, often bouncing off the solar panels which power the spacecraft. Even at night the satellites are high enough to catch the Sun's rays. You'll generally only see Low Earth Orbit satellites, but there are plenty of them, as well as the International Space Station.

Stars move very slowly, but satellites are fast - after all, they orbit Earth every 90 minutes or thereabouts. Look for a fast moving light. Beware of flashing lights: this is probably an aeroplane, not a satellite.

To see the largest and brightest object in orbit, the ISS, this handy NASA site allows you to search for local sighting opportunities.

Everyone knows the old folk rhyme about wishing on the first star you see in the evening (usually Venus, by the way - a planet).
Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish I wish tonight

The sky has changed since that rhyme was made, and our relationship to it has changed also. This is Billy Bragg, in his 1983 song Looking for a New England:
I saw two shooting stars last night
I wished on them but they were only satellites
Is it wrong to wish on space hardware
I wish, I wish, I wish you'd care

Is it wrong to wish on space hardware? I say no. Instead, ask Dr Space Junk to grant your wish on a satellite. Here is my rhyme to go with your satellite spotting expedition, and it's even better because you get to make THREE wishes.

Dr Space Junk in your ship,
Watching every tiny blip.
Please bestow my wishes three:
One for Earth, one for Sea,
and one for the satellite high above me.

8. Join a space society

What could be better than making new space friends and getting to hang out at space events with them? There are a number of societies at national, state and local level which will enable you to get involved in space. Here are a few that I recommend.

Space Industry Association of Australia. This is an industry representative organisation, but definitely worth joining if you work in aerospace or a space-adjacent area.  Full disclosure: I am a member.
Space Association of Australia. Based in Melbourne, the SAA has regular meetings open to the public with guest speakers, and also has a radio broadcast.
National Space Society. This is a chapter of the US society. Every year the NSS hosts the Australian Space Research Conference.
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. There are chapters of the AIAA in Sydney, Canberra, and Adelaide.
The British Interplanetary Society is one of the oldest space societies in existence. (Maybe even the oldest one).  They publish a journal and a magazine.
The Planetary Society is another US one. It was founded by Carl Sagan, among others, in 1980.
Mars Society Australia is part of a global network of Mars societies. Basically they want to go to Mars, but they have lots of activities on Earth too.
Australian Space Research Institute (ASRI) is a volunteer organisation interested in space activities.

If you want to get your hands dirty, you will find local rocket societies almost everywhere across Australia. This is where you can help build and launch a small rocket. It might not get to space but it's the same technology!

9. Eat astronaut food and drink astronaut drinks

There's lots of books around showing you how to train like an astronaut, but who can be bothered with that? Let's go straight to the gourmet end of astronaut existence. Your first tool is the wonderful Astronaut's Cookbook, which combines recipes with stories of life in space.

It's a myth that the powdered drink mix Tang was created for the space program, but it was invented in 1957, Year 1 of the Space Age. It became permanently associated with astronauts and spaceflight when it was used in NASA's Mercury and Gemini programs in the 1950s and 1960s. These days it comes in many difference flavours. And you can make cocktails with it! Here is the recipe for the Buzz Aldrin:

Tang (for garnish)
1 orange slice
4 oz of vodka (this is an American recipe)
2 tablespoons Tang
Place Tang on a plate. Run orange slice around the rim of a glass; rotate rim of glass in Tang. 
In a cocktail shaker, add Tang, vodka, and ice; shake. Strain into glass. Makes 1 cocktail.
The fanciness doesn't stop there. How about following this yummy cocktail with some luxurious Lobster Newburg, as eaten by the lucky crew of the US space station Skylab?

For dessert - of course you need astronaut freeze-dried ice cream., and it's fairly easy to obtain. Many museum shops stock it, and you can buy the original online here. A cheaper version is available from the Questacon shop. For an easy substitute, try meringues!

Breakfast is a snap. Here is a recipe (scroll down) from the Astronaut's Cookbook for a microgravity-friendly cereal.

Any food in a pouch is a good bet. You can buy lots of yogurt, fruit and baby food in this form.

10. Be aware of space for a day

You can decide to do this any time. Just for a day, think about how you are connected to space through Earth and through human technology.

It starts when the sun rises. As you lie in bed, think about Earth slowly turning underneath you, tilting you towards the Sun.

Think yourself into space. Imagine your body moving through time and space, not confined by your line of sight. Sight is not a sense that helps us here. In your mind's eye, think of how gravity is anchoring you to the surface. Be aware of the layers of atmosphere above you, until they thin out and give way to the stars and planets.

Where's the Moon? Look for it in the sky - if it's daytime, you might see its pale white curves, hard to distinguish sometimes. It seems passive, slowly moving in an arc overhead, but its gravitational force causes the tides. Up on the Moon are the remnants of human missions, forming an other-wordly archaeological record.

Perhaps you look at the weather on your phone or the television/radio news while you're having breakfast. The maps of cloud formations over Earth are brought to you from Earth observation satellites.

Every time you use your smartphone, look up and think of the satellites it's using to hook into GPS. Perhaps you get some cash out from an ATM. Look at the printed receipt: the time on it comes from satellites signals. At the supermarket, all of the goods you're about to buy are transported by trucks and ships using satellite signals.

As dusk falls, think of how you are now turning away from the Sun, turning to face the outer regions of the solar system, where human spacecraft are wending their way out into the galaxy beyond.

And of course, finish your day with some satellite spotting.

Space. You're standing in it.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The end of the Space Age

At the moment, we feel kind of connected to many places off-Earth. We have active experiments, orbiters and rovers on the Moon and Mars. Japan's Akatsuki is in orbit around Venus. New Horizons has whizzed past Pluto and into the Kuiper Belt.

But just imagine if we couldn't send anything more into space. This situation might arise if the density of space junk becomes too great and the exponential cascade of collisions causes the Kessler Syndrome. Objects launched from Earth would not escape fatal damage from these hypervelocity collisions.

Gradually, one by one, orbiters would crash onto planetary surfaces as their fuel ran out. Batteries would fail, materials would decay. One by one, the little spacecraft voices that come to the antennas of Earth would fall silent.

The great antennas set to listen to the human sounds of space would cease their turning like sunflowers to catch the signal; they in their turn would become useless monument to the Space Age.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Space Age Suds: women, washing machines and the astronautics of everyday life

'Space Age Suds' is a charming and slightly alarming little vignette which is about the seeping of the Space Age into domestic life, machines and technology and how they structure social relationships, and gender roles in the Space Age. It's meant to be humorous, of course, but there is so much going on here!

The author isn't just anyone - it's beloved South Australian writer and journalist Max Fatchen. I found the article on Trove and now can't relocate it, but it seems likely it was published in the Advertiser, Adelaide's daily broadsheet. The date is a bit uncertain but it's clearly Apollo era.

I like that the Space Age reverses gender roles and that by the analogy of the washing machine with the space capsule, the wife is accorded the power of technology. After some searching I was able to find her first name but not her original surname, so we will have to call her Jean Fatchen here.

Because the image is a little fuzzy, here is the text.

Space Age Suds: the script

So the Russians are developing a low-orbital bomb. Well, it's just one more complicated space-age development, like our washing machine.

Our washing machine has a shape like a capsule and it is computer programmed and uncanny.

I was never much of a one with technology, and as a member of the avant garde laundry set, I'm all washed up.

There's no longer the simple meshing of gears as with our old washing machine. The cheerful days when I got my tie caught in the wrangler are past.

Our washing machine is automated in a cold, impersonal way, and my wife now calls herself a laundry technician.

She subscribes to advanced scientific journals, keeps up with the Apollo space project and runs off at the mouth on everything from transistors to laser beams.

I have been given the title of junior wash and garment line adherer, which means I hang out the clothes. I suppose I should be grateful.

Yet I dread washing mornings. I belong to a generation of boiling coppers and copper sticks, the hot sudsy smell of saturated sheets, and of bars of yellowed soap.

Now there's an air of bristling technology in the laundry, with split-second timing and ruthless efficiency.

"Load", my wife rasps. I stuff the clothes into the washing machine.

She consults her watch. "Four minutes to wash off," she says.

She looks at the console. "Close hatch," she orders. I shut the washing machine. She begins the countdown, "Five.....four.....three..."

"Look, dear," I interrupt, "I've forgotten a couple of my shirts...."

"Clear the complex", she says icily. "". She throws a switch.

I humbly take up my position.

"Motor running", I report.

Strange, uncanny sounds come from the interior of the machine.

'Hot water entering,' I chant, consulting my check sheet.

"All systems are go," says my wife.

I sit back and light a cigarette with clammy hands.

Time goes by. The washing machine murmurs, thumps, sighs and gurgles. Its programme goes its relentless way.

"Check machine and report," rasps my wife from the kitchen.

"Machine on course, entering spin-dry period," I say.

"Check systems," she says.

"Check, check, check," I cry. "Hoses running. Pump stops ... four...three...two"

"Clothes touch down, five minutes," says my wife. "Stand by."

"Machine spinning," I cry.

"Fire retro-rockets," she says absentmindedly.

At last the machine is silent.

My wife climbs to her feet.

"Open hatch!" she orders. "Alert clothes waggon".

She begins unloading the washing machine.

She lets out a shriek. "These clothes still look dirty".

"You didn't," she says, "put in the washing powder, did you?".

"Well," I bluster, insubordinate and defiant to the last, "this machine is supposed to think of everything. If it hasn't enough brains to use washing powder....."

"That's all," she snaps. "We'll have to do another orbit. Get the powder".

No, I haven't been on the moon but there are times when it sounds attractive!


So much to say about this little piece! I'm only going to scratch the surface here.

There's the idea that the Space Age changes how we do small domestic things on Earth: more like machines than messy humans. Both the wife and the washing machine are now operating as Space Age robots (it's a little bit Stepford Wives-ish tbh). It shows how the public interpreted the machine-human interfaces of space technology, down to checklists just like those that the Apollo astronauts used. It's also very cybernetic, getting status updates and adjusting the conditions.

The washing machine drum is a little gravity machine in itself, spinning like a space station or a centrifuge such those astronauts train in. Front loading washing machines with a glass porthole resemble spaceships too. 

The countdown has permeated into the domestic level: precision timing is the key to Space Age efficiency. As a domestic astronaut in her small domain, Jean has assumed power: she commands and Max obeys. She is a robot herself, icy and distant, intolerant of human foibles like forgetting a few shirts - and also the washing powder. (Thanks a bunch, Max. I would have been far more annoyed were I Jean).

The irony is that the power of astronaut Jean is illusory. While Max is pretending to help, he's actually demonstrating a typical trope of the inept male. He boasts about hanging out the clothes, but in this scenario, he forgets the washing powder and sits about smoking a casual ciggie (as people did in those days) while Jean multitasks, back in the kitchen. He finishes with that golden oldie, the nagging wife. It's a perfect illustration of the separate gender spheres of the 1960s, when women were excluded from being astronauts in the US.

'Fire retro rockets,' Jean says, absentmindedly. Doesn't this seem at odds with the ruthless robot housewife, all hard, streamlined efficiency? It took me a few reads before I realised what the subtle Max was implying with this sentence. She is absent-minded and talking about retro-rockets - which the washing machine does not have - because she is dreaming. Standing in her apron at the kitchen sink washing the breakfast dishes, while Max lounges around in the laundry, she is an astronaut. She is in command of a space mission, brave and true. The washing machine is as close as she can come to realising this dream. It makes me feel a little sad.

Once upon a time in France (well probably about 2005), I saw a washing machine advertisement in which a rather attractive nude man crouched in front of the washing machine's porthole, presumably waiting for the spin cycle to finish. The caption read 'One small step for man, one giant leap for women' or something to that effect in French: the idea was that is was a bloody big leap to get a bloke to do any housework, so nude dude's efforts at laundry were going to emancipate women and allow them to leave the house, even go to space! In effect, the effort involved in getting a man to do the laundry was equivalent to landing on the moon!

Gallery of Space Age Suds

As it turns out, there are quite a few connections between washing machines and the Space Age. Here's a small sample.

A space-age shop front in Sheffield, UK. Used with permission, from
Look at those rocket portholes lined up outside this charming shop!

A rental property in Carson City, NV, USA, was advertised with a Space Age Laundry!

From Freaking News,
This is a reference to the Apollo 13 mission.

Source: unknown
This advertisement from 1900 explicitly references the gravity of spinning.

I'm sure I could find many more examples if I kept searching. Le me know if you find any!

And I'd like to finish by saluting astronaut Jean Fatchen. Here she is with Max in 2004.

Jean, with Max. Picture: Grant NowellSource:adelaidenow

Friday, February 22, 2019

Here now the Sun: a poem for Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space

I. Ready for launch

The suit is working well.
The inflow stream is working well.
I’m ready for launch.
I feel excellent.
Everything is normal.
I’m not a delicate lady.
Everything is normal on board.
I’m ready for launch.
I’m taking up the initial position.
Feeling excellent.

II. Launch

The vehicle’s moving smoothly,
vehicle’s moving smoothly.
I feel excellent.
Vehicle’s moving well.
I feel good.
I feel good.
I see the Earth on the porthole.
I feel excellent.
The Earth is very beautiful.
The vehicle is moving smoothly.
I see the Earth in the porthole,
slightly obscured by clouds.

III. Orbit

I’ll do everything that I need to do.
I don’t understand.
I didn’t see anything.
I feel excellent.
The clock is moving.
I see the horizon through the observation port.
I see the Earth in the observation port.
I feel excellent.
All systems on the vehicle are working perfectly.
Everything is excellent,
I hear you perfectly.

IV. The other cosmonaut

I hear you perfectly,
I feel excellent.
I feel excellent, excellent.
I’m approaching Cape Horn. At the outer ring …
The little star disappeared, wasn’t that you?
Don’t go far from me, my friend.
I can’t see the Moon.
The stars are passing further up.
I am seeing such a bright star.

V. The ships are on their way

The vehicle is responding perfectly, perfectly.
From the southern point I called him,
he’s silent,
from the north,
the same.
At our harbour the ships are silently smoking… 

Can you hear?
For the real boys, the harbour is the native home,
comrade to comrade,
they’ll always stand together.
And far far away, 
the ships are on their way,
and all who are young at heart,
stand shoulder to shoulder.

VI. Fourth orbit

19 hours 25 minutes
I sang songs for him
In the centre,
such a blue spot.
Here now the Sun
so orange, not red,
not light red, but
I’m also feeling excellent.
Here now the Sun
visible and lit up.
In the outer ring
the horizon is visible.
It’s a very beautiful sight.
at first it’s light blue,
then lighter,
then dark…

VII. Greetings to all the women of the world

Soviet women!
Greetings to all Soviet women.
I wish you personal good luck
and great success
Women of the world!
Greetings to you from space.
I wish you good luck
and success...

VIII. The flight is normal

Cabin pressure 1.15
Humidity 61 percent
Temperature 23 degrees
Carbon dioxide 0.1
Oxygen 250
Pulse 84-90-100
Breathing 22
I feel excellent.
See you soon in the homeland!
I hear you perfectly, perfectly.
The flight is proceeding normally.
All systems of the ship are working perfectly.
I feel excellent.
I hear you.
I’m waiting.
Everything is excellent.
The spaceship is working perfectly.
I’m in good spirits.
I feel excellent.
I hear everything well.
The flight is normal.
All systems on the ship are working perfectly.
Pressure in the suit 1 atmosphere
Humidity 40 percent
Temperature 28 degrees
Carbon dioxide 0.2 percent
Oxygen 200
All systems on the ships are working excellently.
I feel excellent.

IX. Dear Nikita Sergeyevich

Dear Nikita Sergeyevich!
I will use all my strength and knowledge to fully complete the flight
‘Till we meet again soon on our Soviet land.
Moscow, Kremlin.
I am reporting.
Dear Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev.
The flight is proceeding normally.
All systems on the ship are working perfectly.
I feel excellent. 
Thanks to all the Soviet people
See you soon in the homeland!
Dear Nikita Sergeyevich,
deeply touched by your attention.
With all my heart
Dear Nikita Sergeyevich!
I will use all my strength and knowledge to fully complete the flight,
‘Till we meet again soon on our Soviet land.

X. Shadows

There aren’t enough fingers to block the Sun.
It’s very sunny, difficult to see
at the present a very bright sun,
illuminating the very high clouds...
the horizon above the bright clouds
transitions into shadows.
The dark sky is visible in the survey viewport.
The flight is proceeding normally.
I feel excellent.

XI. This is Chayka

This is Chayka. Over.
This is Chayka. Over.
This is Chayka. Over.
This is Chayka. Over.
This is Chayka. Over.
This is Chayka. Over.
This is Chayka. Over.
This is Chayka. Over.
This is Chayka. Over.


This is a poem made using a technique called erasure, removing words from an existing text to create a new one. The words are from an edited transcript of Valentina Tereshkova's spaceflight. In 1963, she was the first woman to enter space and remains the only on to have performed a solo mission. 

I took the transcript from a paper by space historian Asif Siddiqi. This was not a complete transcript, so poem is only constructed from what Siddiqi reproduced, and of course it is important to remember that the transcript is translated from Russian to English. The transcript lent itself to short, repetitive sentences. My influences in taking this form were Gertrude Stein and HD, particularly her poem Eurydice. Another influence is Christine Rueter (@tychogirl), who first made me aware that poems existed within other texts, waiting to be brought out.

I used only Valentina's words; I wanted to maker her voice front and central, give her a narrative that was purely from her perspective without the judgement of others. She was in conversation with many people during the flight, including Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. I erased anyone who wasn't Valentina, and then removed paragraphs, sentences or parts of sentences to arrive at the poems you read here.

The other cosmonaut referred to was Valery Bykovsky, who was orbiting at the same time. They were supposed to sing a duet together from their separate spacecraft, but in the end Valentina sang by herself. In 'The ships are on their way', the latter part of the poem is from two different Russian songs, ‘Textile Town’, a 1960s hit by Mikhail Tanich, and ‘Friendship Song’, according to Siddiqi. This was Valentina's own mash-up within the text.

Valentina's flight was heavily criticised and constantly dissected. She was, in fact, not feeling excellent, but in the circumstances unable to admit this - a common problem for astronauts in the USSR and US. Space sickness was poorly understood, and admission of anything less than perfection could risk future flights. In addition, an engineer had made a mistake - the Vostok capsule was programmed to ascend, but not to descent. Valentina discovered this a few hours into her flight, which must have been a shock. The error was rectified, fortunately.

The sequence, with one exception when I moved text about the Sun to the same poem, is in the order in which it was spoken, so represents the chronological unfolding of her mission.

The final verse is made up of a phrase which was used repeatedly throughout the transcript. Tereshkova's callsign was Chayka (seagull). At the end of every segment of speech, she says 'This is Chakya. Over'; so I made this the end of the poem sequence. She repeats 'Over', but the poem does not include return to Earth. I wanted to create the impression that this was a moment in time, that she might still be out there, suspended, her state of existence ambiguous. Like she's flying into the sun, and the brightness of the sun prevents us from following her trajectory any further, fading her out like the radio signal.

Siddiqi, Asif  2009 Transcripts give new perspective on Vostok-6 mission. The first woman in Earth orbit. Spaceflight 51: 18-57