Neocolonial Space: Orbital Allocation in the Age of the New International Economic Order, 1971–1979

Lunchtime Lectures
Wednesday, February 26, 2020
12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m.
Science History Institute
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
United States

Join us for a talk by Lisa Ruth Rand, Haas Postdoctoral Fellow at the Science History Institute.

Since the very early years of the Space Age, outer space has been legally defined as the common heritage of all humankind, protected against conquest or sovereignty. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty designates all regions beyond Earth’s atmosphere as open to use by any nation, regardless of access to the resources and technical knowledge required to reach orbit. By the early 1970s, as a small club of spacefaring nations accelerated construction of a satellite infrastructure, a coalition of developing nations pushed back against what they characterized as neocolonial domination. They argued that the Outer Space Treaty was itself a tool of hegemony drafted by and for the benefit of wealthy, industrialized nations. In doing so, the coalition attempted to redefine the valuable geostationary orbit as part of Earth, thus subject to terrestrial laws and territorial regimes. This talk will contextualize this conflict within broader discussions about resource egalitarianism during the 1970s and historicize a current international policy debate about the governance of outer space.


Lisa Ruth Rand headshot

Science History Institute/Jay Muhlin

About the Speaker

Lisa Ruth Rand is a historian of science, technology, and the environment, with a primary interest in discarded and decaying things. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Science History Institute, she will continue her research on the history of space junk, tracing the Cold War transformation of Earth orbit from a boundless expanse to a limited natural resource.

Rand earned her PhD in history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania. Before arriving at the Institute she held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Center for the Humanities and served as a program coordinator and postdoctoral fellow in residence at the Consortium for History of Science, Technology and Medicine. She has also held positions at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the RAND Corporation.


About the Series

Lunchtime Lectures are a series of (mostly) weekly, informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of the Institute staff and fellows and interested members of the public.