The NASA Fellowship in the History of Space Technology, offered by SHOT and supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) History Division, funds either a predoctoral or postdoctoral fellow for up to one academic year to undertake a research project related to the history of space technology. The fellowship supports advanced research related to all aspects of space history and leading to publications on the history of space technology broadly considered, including cultural and intellectual history, institutional history, economic history, history of law and public policy, and history of engineering and management. The 2014 fellowship was awarded to Elizabeth A. Kessler of Stanford University for “Time Capsules,” with the following citation:
In her proposed project for the NASA Fellowship in the History of Space Technology, offered by SHOT and supported by the NASA History Office, Elizabeth A. Kessler takes an innovative approach to the ways in which science and technology—in this case, rockets, space probes, and satellites—have been deployed to shape a kind of “cosmic citizenship.”
She explores the creation, contents, and composition of three particular time capsules produced in the past seventy-five years (1939, 1977, 2012), each of which she reconceptualizes not only as artifacts moving through time but also through cosmic space. The principal concept of her project is to use these time capsules to critically examine expectations about science and technology and their embodiment in material culture at particular moments of time. In doing this, she seeks to uncover how these time capsules were meant “to reconcile science and technology with the demands of cosmic citizenship.” The seemingly disparate subjects of her study highlight one of the strengths of Dr. Kessler’s project: it juxtaposes historical episodes that scholars have not typically studied in tandem.
She revisits the work of G. Edward Pendray, the public advocate of science and space who built the Westinghouse Time Capsule for [End Page 209] the 1939 New York World’s Fair; explores the motivations of Carl Sagan, the planetary scientist and science popularizer and one of the architects behind the Golden Record carried on the Voyager spacecraft; and takes a critical eye to the handiwork of Trevor Paglen, who in 2012 assembled The Last Pictures, a project that put one hundred photographs in a satellite that may remain in orbit until the very end of our planet’s existence.
Dr. Kessler notes that “[a]ll three of these time capsules call attention to the ways space science and its technologies … shape and inflect humanity’s understanding of the cosmos and our relationship to it.” The visual, material, and sonic aspects of these technological artifacts provide a window for her to explore deeper questions on how attitudes toward our place on Earth were fixed in particular historical moments, but also shaped by expectations of a future. As she notes, “the time capsules become tools to grapple with the uncertainty of humanity’s long-term future and the possibility that the technologies used to expand human knowledge, especially of the cosmos, may well lead to our destruction.” Her project promises to be a superb and valuable addition to the literature on material culture, the history of spaceflight, and conceptions of “cosmic citizenship.”
Kranzberg Dissertation Fellowship
This award is in memory of the co-founder of the Society for the History of Technology, and honors Melvin Kranzberg’s many contributions to developing the history of technology as a field of scholarly endeavor and SHOT as a professional organization. The $4,000 award is given to a doctoral student engaged in the preparation of a dissertation on the history of technology, broadly defined, and may be used in any way chosen by the winner to advance the research and writing of that dissertation. The 2014 fellowship was awarded to Lisa Zivkovic of New York University for “The United States, France, and the Creation of the New Transnational Communications Network Infrastructure, 1960–2000,” with the following citation:
The Kranzberg committee awards this year’s fellowship to Lisa Zivkovic, for research in support of her dissertation, “The United States, France, and the Creation of the New Transnational Communications Network Infrastructure, 1960–2000.” A candidate in New York University’s...