Alice Gorman’s “lightbulb moment” came when she was relaxing with a beer one evening, looking up at the bright Milky Way above Australia, where she works at Flinders University.  She realised that within the twinkling vista overhead, there were human-made objects- satellites. And that some of these were by now pretty old. Musings like this will always make an archaeologist want to know more- and so was born Alice’s trowelblazing research field: the archaeology of space exploration.

Alice studies the material remains from humanity’s first paddlings on the shores of the cosmic ocean. She studies the entire range of human constructions relating to spaceflight: global rocket launch sites, the surprising number of landers and rovers on the surfaces of other worlds and the thousands of objects orbiting Earth, also known as “space junk”, which include Vanguard 1, the oldest satellite still in orbit.

Studying space exploration isn’t just about recording what’s out there- Alice works on issues of space heritage, such as the human landscapes created by the Apollo missions on the Moon. She’s also interested in the human co-operation that underlies space missions, and the deeper meanings of our relationship with space. One of her favourite subjects are the most distant humanly-made objects, theVoyager probes, which are speeding away from our solar system into interstellar space, carrying with them golden records with images and sounds of life on Earth, including two Australian Aboriginal songs.

You can watch Alice’s brilliant TEDxSydney talk, read more on her blog and her recent article on space as one of the final human frontiers.

Written by Becky (@LeMoustier)

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