Space Science Infrastructure, Earthly Impacts

These project investigate specific time/space events of outer space science infrastructure impacting earth environments, communities, laws and politics within a broader timeline and spatial field of (neo)colonial projects and privatization of commons. Some of this research is in collaboration with  Dr. Casey Lynch , an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, University of Nevada, Reno.

An intimate space: Gravity, waste and the spatial orientation of bodies

PROJECT SUMMARY Discard studies scholars confront the materiality of waste and that, particularly within the Anthropocene, there is no ‘away’ place for its disposal. The idea of our planet as a bounded sphere, containing the only livable habitat within an otherwise hostile universe is made urgent through emissions in the atmosphere and plastics in the water. However, human activities – including generating waste – extend beyond earth, up into orbit, and there is an emergence of scholars exploring the upper atmosphere and low earth orbit as a part of a global environment. While a new corporate space race is shifting space waste politics with reusable rockets and orbital debris recycling, utilizing a feminist geopolitics and political ecological approach requires a look beyond the national and corporate actors towards intimate, bodily scales.

Engaging the physiological feat of maintaining life in orbit draws attention to the invisible relationships between bodies, waste, and gravity. The engineered habitats required to support life in space create a microcosm of the larger urgent planetary concerns surrounding air and water resources, but also waste storage and elimination. Without strong gravitational fields, liquids coalesce at the location they are created, instead of flowing down and away. Such excesses disrupt the orderly engineered environments and minutely monitored bodies. This paper looks to use astronaut tears, space gynecology, zero-g surgery, and NASA’s “space poop challenge” to investigate the broader politics of waste, gravity, the spatial orientation of human and planetary bodies, and the risk posed by our inability to get away from intimate wastes.

NASAs Space Poop design challenge.

SEE ALSO Gravity, waste and the spatial orientation of bodies. APCG FLG 2019


Observation and Occupation: Settler Colonialism and Space Science Infrastructure in Hawaii

Image by The Atlantic, 2015 (

PUBLISHED AS Sammler, K. & Lynch C. (in revision). Observation and occupation: Settler colonialism and space science infrastructure in Hawai’i.

PROJECT SUMMARY Contemporary Western space science and outer space exploration are inextricably tied to longstanding logics of settler colonialism that aim to evacuate space of meaning in the production of a terra nullius — an empty space for European occupation and a view-from-nowhere from which to objectively observe the universe. The concept of the colony spans spacetimes from Captain Cook’s voyages to the Pacific Islands in the 18th century to projected futures of human settlements on Moon and Mars. Within the broad historical–geographical diversity of colonialism this paper focuses on two space science infrastructures in Hawaii, the Thirty Meter Telescope and the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, and how they employ ideals of the colony, islands, and the cosmos. This paper explores how scientific observation and colonial occupation are co-constituted through the production and maintenance of infrastructures, including the apparatuses of scientific investigation that extend spatially and temporally far beyond the specific sites in question.

PROJECT FUNDING Chancellor’ s Office Research, Scholarship and Creative Activities Award (RSCA), California State University ($5,000).

SEE ALSO Meta Earth, virtual Mars, IOW AMS 2018.     Colonial pasts and futures atop Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. IGU QC 2018.


Spaceport America and Offworld Access

Spaceport facility located in the desert near Truth or Consequences, NM.

PUBLISHED AS Geopolitics, Special Issue: Human Rights and Critical Geopolitics of Outer Space as Spaceport America: Contested Offworld Access and the Everyman Astronaut (2019). Available online: .

PROJECT SUMMARY Spaceport America, a spectacle to see with curvilinear geometry that itself looks like a spacecraft rising out of the desert near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, conveys a hope of the everyman astronaut. Yet this private-public project, spending over $200 million in state taxpayer money to build and with a $2.85 million projected operating budget for 2017, does not provide the vertical transport analog of an airport. As Virgin Galactic stalls in launching its astronomically-priced zero gravity music festival and commercial passenger flights, the facilities have been dusted off for educational rocketry club launches and Hollywood film backdrops while most public access to the grounds is restricted to expensive guided tours.

As with the Spaceport, access to outer space itself raises questions of public versus private ownership and exclusivity. With the withering role of nation states in offplanet activity, there are openings for outer space to become another site of capital accumulation or to manifest as envisioned by social movements such as the Association of Autonomous Astronauts. Given that dominion over outer space has previously been established on a ‘first come, first served’ basis based on national economic and technical superiority, how is access being contested by private and civic interests? This paper considers Spaceport America a site of competing state, corporate, and civil society interests negotiating tensions in the geophysical and technical, political economic, and cultural imaginaries of outer space access.

SEE ALSO Spaceport America: Offworld Access & the Everyman Astronaut. AAG BOS 2017.