Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Ellen Wu L&S Arts & Humanities

Star Trek to Starlink: Mapping the Evolution of US Space Imaginaries

The field of space exploration has seen significant shifts from its beginnings in the Cold War “Space Race” between the United States and Soviet Union, to today’s NewSpace era of commercialization via startups and venture capital. These shifts in the industry have been accompanied by the development of sociotechnical imaginaries: collective visions of ideal futures that are based on a common view of social order, and support advancements in science and technology. Space is an industry ideal for the application of this concept due to heavy government involvement and its tech-intensive nature. Sociotechnical imaginaries in space exploration dictate the advancements we strive toward, like human settlements on Mars; it also justifies what is permissible, such as asteroid mining. This project leverages upon the theoretical framework of sociotechnical imaginaries, a concept originating from science and technology studies, in writing an intellectual history of the US space industry. By characterizing the development of these sociotechnical imaginaries since the mid-20th century, we can uncover what undergirds the space industry’s values, visions, and activities.

Message To Sponsor

I would like to extend my deepest gratitude for this generous funding towards my research project. With your support, I will be able to explore the connection between some of the academic interests I am most passionate about in an interdisciplinary manner. I am sincerely thankful that this topic is receiving recognition and support from the SURF Program and its donors.
Profile image of Ellen Wu
Major: History, Economics
Mentor: Cathryn Carson
Sponsor: Leadership
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