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About this book

This book provides detailed insights into how space and popular culture intersect across a broad spectrum of examples, including cinema, music, art, arcade games, cartoons, comics, and advertisements. This is a pertinent topic since the use of space themes differs in different cultural contexts, and these themes can be used to explore various aspects of the human condition and provide a context for social commentary on politically sensitive issues. With the use of space imagery evolving over the past sixty years of the space age, this is a topic ripe for in-depth exploration. The book also discusses the contrasting visions of space from the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the reality of today, and analyzes space vehicles and habitats in popular depictions of space from an engineering perspective, exploring how many of those ideas have actually been implemented in practice, and why or why not (a case of life imitating art and vice versa). As such, it covers a wide array of relevant and timely topics examining intersections between space and popular culture, and offering accounts of space and its effect on culture, language, and storytelling from the southern regions of the world.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. The Influence of Mass Media on Society’s Views of Space Travel During the Cold War

This article explores how the two world superpowers during the Cold War, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, used mass media as a tool to rally support and invoke nationalistic pride for their respective space programmes. Five specific examples of mass media, including magazine articles, films and posters, are analysed in this context. It also discusses the unique socio-economic setting of the Space Race and how the need for space superiority led to the unprecedented investment, development and breakthroughs in space technologies.
Nicolas Ringas

Chapter 2. Space and Media

Space has become an integral but invisible part of the fabric of modern-day life. Billions of people personally rely on the existence and operation of space systems as they go about their daily lives, yet this fact is largely unappreciated by those very same people. However, space has become deeply embedded in popular culture in visual and performing arts, including the media. This analysis aims to show the impact that the use of satire in popular culture had and continues to have on public perception of space and space related activities.
Eunice Pieterse

Chapter 3. The Use of Space in a Meaningful Manner as Part of Popular Culture in the Form of the Science Fiction Film

The depiction of space in films was a natural merging of technologies borne out of the Renaissance and Industrial Revolution: one that could create alternative worlds and others that created the expectation that new worlds could actually be explored. However, the mental device of estrangement embedded in science fiction as a narrative genre was strengthened when the power of story became amplified with the arrival of film. The mirror of self-reflection that estrangement gave to humankind transformed into a more immersive experience in film with its visual illusions. It allowed the exploration of narrative settings in space and led to the creation of new genres as forms of estrangement. This article sets out to explore the emblematic films that form part of cinematic science fiction and endeavours to establish their meaning and importance in popular culture as it relates to space.
Anton de Waal Alberts

Chapter 4. The Role of Space in Aesthetic and Practical Design of Automobiles: A Look at Five Examples

This chapter contains an examination of the space influence on car design. Before actual spaceflight, car-designers added aeronautical influences after the travesty of WWII, creating a sense of fun and wonder in the everyday machine, largely different to the seriousness of the automobile before the war. Following early Soviet and American rocket achievements, the additions of wings, fins and space age details only increased in number, eventually reaching a peak in the mid 60s. This eventually fell out of favour with a change in fashion, however certain cars such as the Lamborghini Countach grew even more similar to the rocket industry, due to the performance benefits that aerospace technology gives cars. Perhaps nothing relates cars more to space than Elon Musk’s Tesla in orbit, or the Bloodhound SSC which is actually powered by a rocket.
James Wilson

Chapter 5. Space Robots

Robots form an integral part of everyday life. When surveying the average home one may find numerous devices that are remote controlled or include integrated chips that contain forms of artificial intelligence. This shows the importance of robotics however this document does not cover the commercial robotics used on earth but rather explores a variety of fictional robots used in popular culture and compares their real-life counterparts in space. Each robot is discussed in isolation however many of the robots bare resemblance and therefore intertwine features and comparisons e.g. Robonaut who bares resemblance to humanoids in general and therefore is contained in an independent section rather than falling under “Accuracy” as with other space robots. There is also a brief section on some of the benefits delivered to humans from robotic technologies used on the International Space Station, merely to corroborate the importance of robotics and the reason for opting for this topic.
Karmini Konar

Chapter 6. Artificial Gravity in Popular Culture

This article focuses on artificial gravity in popular culture. We begin with a brief discussion on the mechanics of gravity before giving a critical analysis of the artificial gravity observed in the films “Elysium”, “the Martian” and “Interstellar” as well as the book “Ender’s Game”. Finally, we look at the methods used in the “Star Wars” universe using tractor technology. The first four examples illustrate a rotating toroid with varying degrees of real-world viability. The Star Wars example highlights a more absurd attempt at using a scientific principle to justify a technically impossible scenario.
Carl Eriksen

Chapter 7. Youngsters, Dreams and Motivation for Space Exploration

In every culture cradle songs, poems, stories, cartoon movies are produced for children. In Pakistani culture and society also, the more exciting aspects of space have become deeply embedded in cultural values, visual and performing arts. Motivation of youngsters for outer space exploration is the main theme of this chapter. This chapter presents examples to show the motivation for space exploration exists in the deep roots of Pakistani culture and how the young generation is influenced towards the space exploration.
Nasir Mehmood

Chapter 8. Clowns in Space: An Introduction to Circus Aliens and Spaced-Out Comic Performers

This chapter is a guided tour of fiction and film on circus in space, since the mid-20th century. Through the analysis of selected case studies, it clarifies how ‘traditional’ circus can be defined in space narratives, and how space narratives expand on and transcend the cultural imaginary of the circus. Exploring the affinities between space and circus, the article focuses on the comic archetype of the Big Top, i.e. the clown, and on what defines a clown in space narratives—with particular reference to psychedelic and murderous clowns, and to clowns playing human(s). This chapter carves out their pervasive but surprisingly understudied cultural presence and the cultural work they do in different media .
Anna-Sophie Jürgens

Chapter 9. Keeping the Torch Burning for ‘Good Science’ in Popular Culture: Video Games, Space, and Education

Exploring ways in which space has become embedded in popular culture and consciousness is an essential endeavour since billions of people around the world rely on space systems in their daily lives. One of the challenges faced by the space community is raising awareness of this fact among the public and political decision makers, at a time when the more glamorous aspects of space are commonplace in modern culture such as the visual and performing arts. The purpose of this chapter is to illustrate and argue that popular culture, including video games, can also be a potent and valuable tool to educate the public and evoke their interest in space. I argue by way of six examples that video games as popular culture artefacts are (at least to some extent) enablers of the next wave of space exploration, and their educational value is worthy of more serious scholarly attention. The six examples are analysed in the context of a triangular model of popular culture, outer space, and video games, and illustrate the interest of the public in engaging with more challenging, technical, and practical aspects of space via a highly relevant and contemporary medium. This chapter is thus dedicated to a discussion of the six video games and highlights the part they are playing in a broader historical trend, especially in keeping the torch burning for ‘good science’ in popular culture, reflecting public interest in ‘unglamorous’ space, and in turn in promoting such interest and education around space.
André Siebrits

Chapter 10. Regarding Influences of Space on Popular Culture via the Medium of Science Fiction

In the last 60 years or so, more and more science fiction authors have included space in their stories. The effects of space in the stories have increased dramatically as well. To a certain extent, science fiction (SF) is now mostly about space related subjects, or makes use of science that would not have been possible without space exploration. The five examples discussed in this chapter are just a small selection but serve to illustrate this point well. Most of the authors mentioned use real science (practical or theory) and interweave it in their stories in a way most laymen would be able to understand fairly easily. This makes the narrative vastly more enjoyable, as it gives the reader hope that such occurrences may one day be our reality, instead of just being ideas on pages in a dusty old book. To support the discussion, a model is presented of the constructive dialogue of SF elements, and the use of the space element is analysed through relevant literature.
Neal Prins

Chapter 11. Unspoiled Space: The Use of Space in Popular Culture as a Caution Against Environmental Degradation on Earth

This article describes various cultural references that make the use of space in communicating a cautionary tale of environmental degradation. Space is frequently used as a cultural touchpoint in helping to emphasise important themes, and this appears throughout various mediums, including computer games, advocacy campaigns, books, and movies as described here. In addition to exploring the use of space for communicating an environmental message, it remains important to understand these messages in the context of current space realities and how, if these fictions were reality, they would follow existing space norms and policies. While popular culture often distorts the accuracy of real conditions of norms and policies to provide an entertainment value to audiences, this paper finds that for the examples described they are largely faithful in abiding by and accounting for current space law and policies.
David Lindgren

Chapter 12. Predictions of Science Fiction That Came True

The idea of other worlds and realities beyond what we can see in the sky has always stimulated the public imagination. In this way, space has had an important place in popular culture since early times, before the beginning of the space race. Representations of this can be found in many forms of arts, including cinema, plastic arts, music and literature.Whether popular culture inspires scientists in their work or technological developments expand the limits of writers and artists’ imagination, there is an undeniable interplay between both fields. From the astonishingly correct predictions in Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon, to the early visions of space depicted in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, this chapter presents a compilation of “predictions” of science fiction that came true in the space industry.
Mónica Estébanez Camarena

Chapter 13. Seven Billion Deer in the Headlights

A large scale asteroid impact is inevitable! This is both a truth and the plot of the disaster films discussed here: When Worlds Collide (1951), Meteor (1979), Asteroid (1997), Armageddon (1998), and Deep Impact (1998). They may be a hit in Hollywood, but their physics and logic do not always adhere to the truth. Interestingly, they sometimes offer insight in the geopolitical relations, the deemed potential of the space industry, and the popular image of space at the time of release. The films show Hollywood’s unrealistic mitigation efforts, but the truth is that real solutions are yet to be proven in practice.
Bas Martens

Chapter 14. Hope at the Frontier: Firefly and the Value of Space Exploration

Space is often defined as the final frontier. Historically, the development of the American frontier was an important pursuit that not only expanded the physical boundaries of the nascent nation, but led to the development of uniquely American values that came from overcoming the challenges associated with frontier life. As we begin to expand into the final frontier, it is likely that this pursuit will have a similar affect on the culture of a spacefaring humanity. Firefly, the 2002 television series created by Joss Whedon, draws out the analogy between space exploration and the frontier. Following the crew of a spaceship, Serenity, Whedon explores the kinds of values that are associated with life at the frontier, and reimagines them in a new context. This examination serves as a useful reminder of the consequences of exploration, and the possible effects it could have on defining a new culture.
Mehak Sarang

Chapter 15. The Space Activities of Animals in African Fairy Tales in Light of International Space Regulations

“The Baboon who went to the Moon” (John Bush/JC Phillips, Storytime Africa, South Africa) is a marvellous fairy tale that shows that determination leads far, even to the Moon and potentially beyond. However, it also invites analysis of the space activities of this genius baboon with respect to international space regulations. In this context, the space freedom rights conferred by the Outer Space Treaty will be discussed together with the constraints and further regulations that have to be respected in order to guarantee the sustainable and equitable use of outer space for all.
Annette Froehlich
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