A group of researchers has launched the first-ever archaeological study of humans in space, observing the lives of the crew living on the International Space Station.
The experiment, which will analyze and document the unique “Small Society in a Small World,” began this week with Associate Professors Alice Gorman of Flinders University in Australia and Justin Walsh of Chapman University in California leading the effort.
“We are the first to try to understand how humans relate to the elements with which they live in space,” Walsh said in a statement.
“By bringing archaeological perspectives into an active space domain, we are the first to show how people adapt their behavior to an entirely new environment,” he added.
Over the course of the project, the team will investigate how space culture has emerged and evolved since the International Space Station opened in November 2000 and the effects on the development of long-term missions on those on board to solve technical, engineering or medical problems.
“What they don’t usually realize is that each of these problems has social and cultural dimensions – and if they ignore those problems, their solutions will be suboptimal,” the research team explained. Twitter.
Walsh and Gorman hope to address several big-picture questions that have not previously been asked by other Earth-related archaeologists in the field, including: How do crew members interact with each other and with equipment and places that originated in other cultures? How does material culture reflect gender, race, class, and hierarchy on the International Space Station? How do spaces and objects frame the interactions of conflict or cooperation? How did the crew members change the space station to suit their needs or desires? What are the effects of microgravity on the development of society and culture?
Instead of digging into ancient dirt to unlock secrets of how past societies once lived, the space-focused research team will begin its exploration of the “archaeological site” through a series of one-meter-long images taken by crew members aboard the International Space Station.
By dividing the site into a network of squares along the station’s walls, the scientists say they will gain a better understanding of the entire site.
“Instead of digging it up to reveal new layers of soil representing different moments in the site’s history, we’re going to photograph it every day to determine how it was used and how it changed over time,” Gorman explained.
The first phase of the experiment will last 60 days and updates will be posted on the International Space Station’s archaeological project website.
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