Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
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Providence, RI 02912
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I decided to research the satellite (the man-made kind) this semester through the lens of space junk. My initial research was specific to the satellite, including its engineering, and questions of space, time, material, and agency. Over the course of the past few weeks, however, this analysis has combined with a discussion of space junk, but space junk on its own will be discussed toward the second half of this paper. So, that said, let’s begin:
Space junk ranges from small items like paint chips and tools dropped by astronauts to larger items like decommissioned satellites and rocket staging shed off of rockets used to put satellites into orbit. There are currently 6,000 satellites in service, and an estimated 26,000 items of space junk also in orbit, and when tracked by radar it looks something like a beehive: http://www.aero.org/support/video/space-debris.mov.
We can see satellites blinking and slowly moving in the night sky, we see satellite renderings in science fiction movies, and we can see them, if we’re bored enough, on the NASA twenty-four hour television station. We can potentially see space junk for split seconds if it’s burning up through the atmosphere at night; we can also see space junk through images, or the extremely improbable chance of a chunk of burnt up metal landing outside of The Watson Institute during class.
Unlike many other things that could have been chosen for this project, we clearly don’t have direct physical contact with satellites or with space junk. This is what initially interested me in this topic.
I’ve structured this paper to address questions of Space, Time, and Materiality of satellites and space junk first. This will be followed by the question of Agency, with examples of Satellite Functions, and how they pervade, invade, and allow our day to day lives. Through this analysis I hope to find exactly what the relationship between Man and Satellite means. The remaining portion of the paper is about space junk specifically, and includes subtopics Dangers in Space, Dangers on Earth, Control, and Exo-archaeology.
The Satellite main page