Critical Issues in the History of Spaceflight


Steven J. Dick and Roger D. Launius (Editors)

Series: Space Science, Exploration and Policies
BISAC: TEC002000

At a May 1981 ”Proseminar in Space History” held at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, DC, historians came together to consider the state of the discipline of space history. It was an historic occasion. The community of scholars interested in the history of spaceflight was not large; previously, well-meaning but untrained aficionados consumed with artifacts had dominated the field, to the exclusion of the larger context. At a fundamental level, this proseminar represented a ”declaration of independence” for what might be called the ”new aerospace history.”
In retrospect, it may be interpreted as marking the rise of space history as a recognizable subdiscipline within the field of U.S. history. Bringing together a diverse collection of scholars to review the state of the art in space history, this proseminar helped in a fundamental manner to define the field and to chart a course for future research. Its participants set about the task of charting a course for collecting, preserving, and disseminating the history of space exploration within a larger context of space policy and technology. In large measure, the course charted by the participants in this 1981 proseminar aided in advancing a very successful agenda of historical research, writing, and understanding of space history. Not every research project has yielded acceptable results, nor can it be expected to do so, but the sum of the effort since 1981 has been impressive. The opportunities for both the exploration of space and for recording its history have been significant. Both endeavors are noble and aimed at the enhancement of humanity. Whither the history of spaceflight Only time will tell. But there has been an emergent ”new aerospace history” of which space history is a central part that moves beyond an overriding concern for the details of the artifact to emphasize the broader role of the spacecraft. More importantly, it emphasizes the whole technological system, including not just the vehicle but also the other components that make up the aerospace climate, as an integral part of the human experience. It suggests that many unanswered questions spur the development of flight and that inquisitive individuals seek to know that which they do not understand.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


Section I: Motivations for Spaceflight


Chapter 1: Seeking Newer Worlds: An Historical Context for Space Exploration
-Stephen J. Pyne

Chapter 2. Compelling Rationales for Spaceflight? History and the Search for Relevance
-Roger D. Launius

Section II: Human and Robotic Exploration

Chapter 3. Observations on the Robotic Versus Human Issue in Spaceflight
-Howard E. McCurdy

Chapter 4. Human-Machine Issues in the Soviet Space Program
-Slava Gerovitch

Chapter 5. Human and Machine in the History of Spaceflight
-David A. Mindell

Section III: NASA and External Relations


Chapter 6: NASA and the Aerospace Industry: Critical Issues and Research Prospects
-Philip Scranton .

Chapter 7. NASA and the Department of Defense: Enduring Themes in Three Key Areas
-Peter Hays

Chapter 8. Technology, Foreign Policy, and International Cooperation in Space
-John Krige

Section IV: Access to Space


Chapter 9. “A Failure of National Leadership”: Why No Replacement for the Space Shuttle?
-John M. Logsdon

Chapter 10. Reusable Launch Vehicles or Expendable Launch Vehicles? A Perennial Debate
-Andrew J. Butrica

Section V: NASA Cultures


Chapter 11. Changing NASA: The Challenges of Organizational System Failures
–Diane Vaughan

Chapter 12. Accidents, Engineering, and History at NASA, 1967-2003
-Alexander Brown

Chapter 13. Institutional Issues for Continued Space Exploration: High-Reliability Systems Across Many Operational Generations-Requisites for Public Credibility
-Todd R. La Porte

Section VI: Space History: State of the Art


Chapter 14. American Space History: Legacies, Questions, and Opportunities for Future Research
-Asifa Siddiqi

Chapter 15: The History and Historiography of National Security Space
-Stephen B. Johnson

Chapter 16. Critical Theory as a Toolbox: Suggestions for Space History’s
Relationship to the History Subdisciplines -MargaretA.Weitekamp

Chapter 7. Space Artifacts: Are They Historical Evidence?
-David A. DeVorkin

Section VII Postscript

Afterword: Community and Explanation in Space History (?)
-Martin Collins

About the Authors

Acronyms and Abbreviations

The NASA History Series


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