“Space archaeologist” would be a fine job description for a fictional character on an interplanetary mission to unearth the ruins of an alien civilization. But a handful of real-life archaeologists are already making a bid to study culture in space — of the human, not alien, variety.
What do you see in this photo? Space archaeologists have catalogued more than 30 cultural artifacts in this image, including Russian Orthodox icons and a photo of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space.Credit: NASA/Flickr
A new effort, called ISS Archaeology, seeks to understand the “microsociety” aboard the International Space Station.
The plan is to treat the space lab like archaeologists would treat an ancient site. By looking at the artifacts of astronauts — from their dining utensils and sleeping bags to their religious icons and family photos — these researchers hope to gain new insights into how astronauts of different backgrounds interact with each other, and how they adapt to life in microgravity.
Making space for archaeologists
The idea for the project was conceived in the fall of 2015, when NASA put out a call for applications for its astronaut program. The space agency no longer recruits only seasoned fighter pilots, ...