Archaeology is the study of human culture through material remains – that is, through the objects and environmental alterations left behind by people when they live in and engage with different environments. Space archaeology, therefore, is this study of the remains that are related to outer space. Examples of this can be seen in the footprints left on the moon by astronauts, rocket launch sites, and even space junk. The field of space archaeology is still emerging, but already has several contributors, including Dr. Alice Gorman, also known as Dr. Space Junk.
Learn Space Archaeology from Home!
Are you looking to learn something new? Explore space archaeology with a free Twitter course delivered by Dr. Alice Gorman.
From Isolation to Education
When Dr. Gorman returned from an overseas trip in mid-March this year, she found herself in self-isolation for two weeks in accordance with the Australian government guidelines that had come into place at the time due to COVID-19. In order to pass the time, and in response to the growing trend of creating free online education resources, she saw the chance to create a Twitter-based resource about space archaeology. She remarks, “I was looking at the amazing efforts people were making to provide free, accessible resources for education and recreation, and wondered what I had to offer”.
Since the 17th March 2020, Dr. Gorman (found on Twitter as @drspacejunk) has tweeted the contents of a self-designed course on space archaeology under the hashtag #drspacejunk101. The course is easily accessible to people who have little or no knowledge of archaeology, and has interactive (and optional) “homework” activities to do at home such as drawing mud-maps and doing further readings. Dr. Gorman covers a huge range of topics under the broad umbrella of space archaeology, such as looking at so-called space towns that were built around space industry.
The course is split into 10 modules, which range from the history of the field through to astrobiology and the future of space archaeology. The planned modules can be seen below, the first two have which have already been covered in Dr. Gorman's course as of the writing of this article.
A New Learning Format
Dr. Gorman has seen this course as a challenge – is Twitter conducive for teaching? Although she enjoys the interactive nature of the platform, allowing a two-way learning relationship between her and students/peers, Dr. Gorman suggests that the limit of 280 characters per tweet presents unique experimental basis for conveying complex facts and theories in an effective manner. Despite this, presenting the course has provided Dr. Gorman with new insights: “Thinking through some of the themes and issues of space archaeology to talk about each day has made me think of new aspects of space material culture too - so it's really been a two-way street!”.
More Space Archaeology
As well as running this Twitter course, Dr. Gorman is also author of the book Dr. Space Junk vs. the Universe, where she explores space junk in the context of archaeology. If you wish to read more about her personal journey to becoming a space archaeologist, as well as learn more about space archaeology in general, you can find her book here:
If you would like to follow Dr. Gorman’s course, you can find it under the hashtag #drspacejunk101 on Twitter. The first tweet of the course can be found below.