'Space archaeology slowly gaining traction'
By Express News Service | Published: 02nd September 2016 04:03 AM |
BENGALURU: Archaeology need not always be the examination of something buried or something still. It can be moving at an incredibly high speed and still have cultural and archaeological significance, said Dr Alice Gorman, space archaeologist at Flinders University in Australia. Gorman was delivering a lecture on the subject to students of St Joseph’s College in the city.
Space archaeology is the research-based study of various human-made items found in space, their interpretation as clues to adventures mankind has experienced in space, and their preservation as cultural heritage, according to the Archaeological Institute of America.
It includes launch complexes on Earth, orbital debris, satellites, and objects and structures on other celestial bodies such as Mars.
According to Gorman, space archaeology started in 1936. From Telsar-I, the first telecommunica tion satellite that was launched in 1962 to the Apollo landing sites on the Moon from 1969 to 1972, all held historical and social significance, from a space archaeologist’s perspective, said Gorman.
“There are millions of stray objects flying in zero gravity in the lower earth orbit that will have catastrophic effects if it hits spaceships. Should we destroy it in an orbital clean-up or preserve it? That’s a question,” she said.
In reference to the launch of Chandrayaan-I in 2008, she said, “It included an impact probe and a lunar orbiter. The remapping of those landing sites is proof of Indian archaeology on the Moon.”
So how does one become a space archaeologist considering that there are only a handful in the world? “Do an undergraduate archaeology degree, then a Masters or PhD on a space archaeology topic. An essential aspect would be combining it with aerospace engineering because I had to bring myself up to speed with astrodynamics etc,” she said.
“Space archaeology is slowly gaining traction. Ten years ago, people would think you’re mad but now there are encyclopedia entries on space archaeology, so it’s a recognised sub-discipline. A lot of people in the space industry are aware of it. India has a vibrant and venerable space programme, and hence it has a lot of potential,” she said.
Talking about material available for study, she said, “I have to use space records, space junk catalogues and Celes Track (Keplerian elements for most satellites in low-earth orbit.) I read a lot of science material too.”