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Selling the Space Age: NASA and Earth's Environment, 1958-1990

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created in 1958 to develop America's non-military space effort. But the early leaders of a self-consciously elite science and technology agency rarely saw Earth as a part of 'space' or solar system exploration. This is clear when examining NASA's relations with earthly applications in the late 1950s and 1960s and with fast-emergent environmentalism in the 1970s and 1980s. NASA consistently misread the importance of the most popular science-based political movement of the late twentieth century. NASA was advised from 1959 onwards that earthly concerns - and practical worldly benefits - were necessary to create broad and enduring support for space explorations. Despite this, NASA leaders consistently underestimated, ignored or spun-off Earth 'applications' in the formative period of America's civilian space programme. Power and prestige-focused human spaceflight, Moon and Mars missions, and human settlement of the solar system, became NASA's enduring 'human spaceflight culture'.
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Keywords: United States; astronautics; earth resource satellites; ecology and state; environmentalism; space exploration; space policy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • Environment and History is an interdisciplinary journal which aims to bring scholars in the humanities and biological sciences closer together, with the deliberate intention of constructing long and well-founded perspectives on present day environmental problems.

    Environment and History has a Journal Impact Factor (2018) of 0.800. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.918.
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