Speaker Abstracts 2023

Labour and Space – 1330–1430 UTC

Keynote: Wrestling with The Lie: What Do White Men’s Responses to Zina’s Story Commend to Us to Do?
Apriel Hodari (she/her), Eureka Scientific, Inc.

The Lie is defined as the “set of practices that, taken together, constitute” the belief that “in America white lives have always mattered more than the lives of others” (Glaude Jr., 2020). Research has shown that well-intentioned STEM reformers speak and behave to maintain racial privilege, and co-created systems of oppression, thereby supporting the lie, often contradicting their stated intentions (Dancy & Hodari, 2022). I share forthcoming work on white men physicists’ reactions to a black woman’s racist experience in a physics class. I ask conference participants to consider what the findings I present commend to them to do.

Dancy, M., & Hodari, A. K. (2022). How well-intentioned white male physicists maintain ignorance of inequity and justify inaction. arXiv, Article arXiv:2210.03522 (physics.ed-ph). https://arxiv.org/abs/2210.03522

Glaude Jr., E. S. (2020). Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own. Crown-Random House.

One Hundred Thousand Suns
Rohini Devasher (she/her)

How closely can we know our nearest star?
Every day, weather permitting, since 1904, the staff at the Kodaikanal Solar Observatory in India, have recorded images of our Sun.

More than 100 years of solar data.
Almost 11 solar cycles.
More than 157,000 distinct portraits of our nearest star.
In this talk, artist Rohini Devasher takes us through her most recent work, One Hundred Thousand Suns a 4 channel film installation that brings into conversation the geometry of the Earth, Moon and Sun, alongside conjunctions of event and site.

Poetic, speculative and deliberately discrete, One Hundred Thousand Suns is another kind of rendering of the Sun. Assembled from data both historical and contemporary, it foregrounds the reality that the site, the observer, and the methods of observation and collection may produce multiple readings and avatars of data.

The trajectory of the Sun’s observations, beginning with hand drawn sun spots on small disks of paper and glass photographic plates from the archives from the Kodaikanal Solar Observatory in South India, data sets from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, to the artist’s own data – are navigated to explore the complexities of observational astronomy, and the ways in which ‘seeing’ is strange, wondrous, and more ambiguous than one might imagine.

Lessons Learned from Black in Astro and the Black in X Movement
KeShawn Ivory (he/they), Vanderbilt University

KeShawn Ivory, Events Co-Chair for Black in Astro, discusses the motivation for the creation of Black in Astro and the larger Black In X movement by Ashley Walker, as well as challenges and successes along the way. Specifically in the context of labor in space he discusses the disparate expectations for marginalized people, the lack of appreciation for non-scientific work, and maintaining values above all else.

Challenges and Resources for the Mental Health of Individuals with Marginalized Identities in STEMM
Schuyler Borges (they/them), Northern Arizona University

The mental health of people with marginalized identities in STEMM is often overlooked and forgotten. However, many students in higher education experience anxiety, depression, or thoughts of suicide, and these rates increase for those who are STEMM graduate students with marginalized identities. It’s especially difficult for people with marginalized identities to be in these academic spaces because of racism, ableism, transphobia, queerphobia, etc. As a result of systemic oppression, these students have to undergo more barriers to success than their peers. The consequences of the current structure of academia are very real and serious; not an insignificant amount of students physically harm themselves as a result of the toll these spaces take on their mental health. One way to create support for people with marginalized identities in STEMM is to create accessible mental health services. One of my involvements in this field is with THRIVE Lifeline, a trans-owned text-based international crisis hotline staffed by and for people with marginalized identities in STEMM. Our hotline is unique in that we provide community- and trauma-informed crisis response and de-escalation services that are centered on the individual. In order to best connect with those in crisis, it’s imperative to affirm and validate their experiences. Our texters often share their identities with us, and most of our interactions revolve around discrimination and isolation. We provide resources to our texters that are affirming and centered on community. We also partner with STEMM organizations to create awareness, advocacy, and support for people with marginalized identities across fields of science.

Space, Technology and Dual-Use – 1500–1600 UTC

If erosion of human rights via support of the military industrial complex is currently “the cost of doing business” in space science, how do we ethically participate?
Zahra Khan (she/her), Independent Researcher

Recent years have seen employee led protests against tech companies’ involvement with the military industrial complex (MIC). Yet the space science industry, whose ties to MIC are much more extensive, has largely not been a part of this movement. This talk briefly highlights the human rights violations of the aerospace MIC, the history of antiwar activism in aerospace and shares some recent research about the impact of space science involvement with the MIC on marginalized workers and diversity, equity & inclusion in the field. A common defense of military work by aerospace companies is that military funding is necessary for a viable space systems business. This talk invites you to consider how to move towards ethically exploring space if the current “cost of doing business” is supporting the MIC’s destruction of our world.

Joint Talk: Historicizing the Neoliberalization of the Space Economy: Iridium Satellites, SpaceX, and Speculative Capital
Réka Gal (she/they), Arun Jacob (he/him), University of Toronto

The space sector is becoming increasingly commercialized, as private entrepreneurs, including the richest men on the planet Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, are systematically taking over the space sector previously dominated by governmental organizations.This paper thickens the history of the neoliberalization of space technologies, attempting to trace its origin to the Iridium Satellite Corporation, developed in 1998* by Motorola’s Strategic Government Electronics Division, which offers global mobile coverage through routing mobile communications through space. Originally marketed to the global businessman, Iridium’s phone service has since then been described as “the most dramatic advance in combat communications since Motorola’s invention of the Walkie-Talkie during World War II” (Robin and Neels, 2017), due to its ability to link any two remote locations around the globe through their low Earth orbit satellites.

Looking at business literature, grey literature, and newspaper archives, this talk explores how the Reagan era economic liberalization policies aided startup logic to be employed in the space industries. Tracing the networks, technologies, and institutions that were imbricated in the almost “de-orbiting” of Iridium satellites to becoming the premiere Low Earth Orbit Satellite for SpaceX, we explore the valences of speculative capital in the space industry, from Iridium Satellites to the contemporary logics employed by companies such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and SpaceX.

The Other side of Science
Natalie Treviño (she/her), Open University

When duality is mentioned in conversations about space exploration, often what is thought of is spin-out technologies or the political uses of space. But what isn’t often discussed is the of the modernity/coloniality construct of Western space exploration. This presentation seeks to explore that construct and reveal the coloniality, the violence, of space exploration that stops it from being “for all humankind.”

The Politics of Pixels: Critical Remote Sensing
Mia Bennett (she/her), University of Washington

The past two decades have witnessed the rapid commercialization of outer space. The satellite industry has driven almost three-quarters of this economic activity, totaling $271 billion in revenue in 2020. As spaceborne satellite imagery becomes an increasingly powerful and ubiquitous tool for everything from tracking large-scale deforestation to activities at the 10-centimeter level, it is crucial to interrogate the politics and economics involved in the production, analysis, and applications of the data. In this talk, I offer a review and research agenda for critical remote sensing, defined as inquiries and scientific practices cognizant of satellite imagery’s inherent politicization.

Environment and Space Science – 1800–1900 UTC

Keynote: Chonkyfire / The South Got Something to Say
Thandi Loewenson (she/her), Royal College of Art

Think of this talk as more of a demotape, crunchy and lo fi, and in dialogue with the work of others. These include André “3000” Benjamin, Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, Langston Hughes, Patrice Lumumba and Asif A. Siddiqi, to name a few. Through this chorus, I stitch together the earthly and ethereal black righteous space of the dirty South, echoes from the galactic graveyard of the liberation movement, and the idea that a decaying launch platform off the coast of Kenya might have something to say about anticolonial ideas in space today.

Outer Space as Natural Environment: Historical Perspectives
Lisa Ruth Rand (they/she), Caltech

In the sixty-five years since Sputnik reached orbit, a system of waste produced by space industry has accumulated alongside the satellite infrastructure. While human actors are responsible for the form, function, and planned location of each spacecraft sent aloft, the non-human natural ecosystem of Earth orbit also plays a crucial role in shaping each artifact from design through decay. A historical view of the complex interactions between industry and orbital nature reveals the multivalent messiness of the space industry and demonstrates the ways that these more-than-human entanglements undergird global inequality in the Space Age.

Space, Sustainability, and Ethics: An Interdisciplinary Perspective
Sahba el-Shawa (she/her), Jordan Space Research Initiative

This interdisciplinary talk explores the scope of environmental impacts beyond climate change, as well as how intersectional sustainability is defined when considering social and economic impacts. An overview of space for sustainability is outlined, including the work of the Jordan Space Research Initiative for sustainable development, and the motivational impact of the Overview Effect. Environmental impacts of space exploration are also discussed, along with ethical considerations and its ties with militarization and colonialism, positing that the ideologies driving environmental and social injustice on Earth are the same ideologies driving the space debris problem and our extractivist approach to exploring space beyond our home planet.

A Circular Economy Approach to Lunar Waste Management
Nadia Khan (she/her), MIT AeroAstro, Engineering systems Lab

NASA aims to send the first man and woman to the Moon by 2024. Currently there are over a dozen missions planned to land on the Lunar surface. The last time humans landed on the Moon, they left behind 181,000 kg of ‘human made’ items on the surface. Some of them contained radioactive waste. As Recently as 2022, it was discovered that a Chinese rocket had crashed onto the lunar surface. In addition to this, the Opportunity Rover discovered plastic debris on Mars. Today the ‘race to the moon’ is being ‘led’ by private companies and their billionaire owners agendas. These changes in the nature of lunar missions since the Apollo program and increased amounts of lunar debris raise important questions about how ‘waste’ items will be managed on the lunar surface and by whom? This talk will draw examples from our treatment of protected ‘global commons’ environments such as Antarctica, Lower Earth Orbit to make the case for why lunar waste management policies need to be developed urgently by space agencies across the world. In doing so, this talk will highlight how a circular economy approach can be adopted in order to reduce the ‘environmental impact’ of mining, ISRU, landing, and other human activities on the moon. The talk will explore potential lunar waste management policy frameworks that have been developed from existing U.S policies on waste management. The aim of this talk is to open up the discussion about waste management as a concept not just on the Moon but on Mars too.

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