The Vikings and the Medieval Future of Space Exploration
Thursday, March 14, 2019, at 16.30
In 1975, a pair of American space probes broke the Earth’s orbit to embark on a 10-month journey to Mars; their mission: to photograph the red planet from orbit, and deploy landers to study its surface. The mission’s name was debated at NASA’s Langley Research Centre in November 1968, and their decision — the Viking program — established the Viking voyages of exploration and settlement as a new metaphor for the exploration of our solar system.
This lecture considers the ways in which the Scandinavian Middle Ages have been invoked in discourses about space and its exploration: from the Viking program of the 1960s and 70s, to place-names derived from Old Norse mythology on Jupiter’s moon Callisto. I will focus on three examples: Valhalla (1979), the solar system’s largest multi-ring impact crater; Dellingr (2017), a NASA satellite named after an Old Norse god of the dawn mentioned in Eddic poetry; and Ultima Thule (2019), the farthest object in the solar system ever to be visited by a spacecraft. This lecture explores the ways in which planetary scientists and international space agencies continue to instrumentalise the Scandinavian Middle Ages in thinking about space exploration, and the broader frame of cultural and ethical concerns that this entails.
Dale Kedwards holds a Ph.D. from York University (2015). He began a Carlsberg-funded research project at Hugvísindastofnun in March 2019, in collaboration with partners at Þjóðminjasafn Íslands and Det Danske Nationalhistoriske Museum. His research focusses on Scandinavian medievalisms in discourses about space and its exploration.
The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend.