Of all the conferences I’ve missed, the Societal Impact of Spaceflight Conference, held just last week in Washington DC, takes the cake for maximum regrets. The abstracts are online, and I’m investigating the proceedings (hopefully they will come out in PDF-on-CD format, as many other NASA conferences have done in the past.) The conference is highlighted and mulled over in this article. Among many interesting things said, I found this on the amusing side:
Another surprising omission was virtually no mention of Star Trek and its influence on the space program. Many speakers mentioned the powerful influence that written science fiction has had on shaping attitudes and expectations for spaceflight, but the most popular and well-known science fiction program of the last four decades was ignored by the speakers.
That’s because once Discovery aired How William Shatner Changed the World, nothing more needed to be said. (…At least, according to Shatner. It’s a hilarious spoof — with some truth mixed in here and there — and definitely worth one viewing.)
The conference, co-hosted by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the NASA History Division, offered up many intriguing topics for discussion by scholars and members of the public. (The conference was free, incidentally — all the better to encourage the average concerned citizen to attend.) Beyond this, it symbolizes hope that concerns for space program support, and the future of spaceflight in general, have gained enough attention to merit a broader examination of how society views, and is influenced by, human spaceflight and space exploration in general. That very topic is the purpose of this weblog, and it warms my heart to see it get the attention it deserves.
Space and culture, spaceflight and society — this stuff is important to me. It should be important to you too.