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Culture-Space: Towards a Better Understanding of Space Exploration Rationale

This multidisciplinary series of workshops will explore our understanding of space exploration in a cultural context.


The aim of the project is to bring together a multidisciplinary group across three workshops to ask “how and why do human cultures explore space?” and “what does it say about humankind that we go into space?” so as to develop a culturally centred conceptual framework for the understanding of space exploration.

The resulting framework will help develop a new generation of space exhibitions/galleries by integrating cultural and social aspects that heretofore have featured little in space displays, with the ultimate purpose of engaging a wider breadth of the public.

The three workshops were:

  • Science Museum, London (31 July – 1 August 2019—themed on representation of space exploration today in museums and beyond)
  • European Space Agency’s ESTEC centre, Netherlands (7–8 October 2019—themed on the multidisciplinary and diverse in space exploration)
  • Mullard Space Science Laboratory, Surrey (21–22 November 2019—themed on potential displays of space exploration).

Read the Case for Support here


There is a widespread exposition of space exploration technology in museums and science centres around the world. While varying in size and scale, the displays all follow similar narratives that emphasise the technical means developed in the mid-20th century to enable spaceflight, but which include sparse acknowledgement of broader cultural factors, and disproportionately emphasise a western space narrative.

This research network is designed to launch a research enterprise to create a broader account of space exploration, by building the multidisciplinary context and opening up the subject to new research questions that view space technologies from fresh perspectives.


The major long-term dissemination will be the redeveloped Science Museum space gallery. This will be accompanied by associated publications that will provide a permanent record of the thinking behind the gallery, including that deriving from these workshops, and enable engagement by people who cannot visit in person.


Project outputs will include:

  • public events at each workshop
  • workshop summaries on the project web page
  • a summary article (for submission to a leading scholarly journal) discussing the substance of the workshops
  • a report and presentation for the museum’s master-planning review group.

Project team

Doug Millard
Principal Investigator/Deputy Keeper of Technologies and Engineering
Science Museum

Jon Agar
Co-Investigator/Professor of Science and Technology Studies
University College London

William Macauley
Coordinator/Senior Research Associate
University of Manchester

Mark McCaughrean
Local lead for Workshop 2/Senior Advisor for Science and Exploration
European Space Agency

Lucie Green
Local lead for Workshop 3/Professor of Physics
UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory

Tim Boon
Head of Research and Public History
Science Museum Group

Header image: Tissue Equivalent Mannequin from the Zond 7 mission, 1969, courtesy of The Polytechnic Museum, Moscow.