Monday, February 12, 2018,
Miller Library / 014

Feb. 12 at 4:00 in Miller 14 with refreshments

Lisa Ruth Rand, University of Wisconsin-Madison, January 12, 2018, 4:00 pm, Miller 14

It Came from Outer Space: Solar Weather, Space Junk, and Envirotechnical Disaster during the Cold War

What goes up must come down: Gravity brings everything from flying baseballs to orbiting satellites back to Earth. The technologies that spacefaring humanity launches into orbit continuously collide with atmospheric particles and eventually fall, breaking apart in the intense friction and pressure of the upper atmosphere in an event called reentry. Sometimes fragments of these reentering objects—popularly known as “space junk”—survive to land in unexpected places, often with unanticipated consequences. By the end of the 1970s, a confluence of artificial and natural changes in the orbital landscape yielded a new kind of disaster that rendered the Cold War threat of nuclear destruction from above real—and not just for citizens of the superpowers and their allies. As reentries shaped events on the ground below, the outer space environment itself became a power player in Cold War geopolitics.

Public event