Call for Proposals: Key Moments in SpaceFlight – Deadline Oct 15, 2010

The NASA History Division and the National Air and Space Museum’s Division of Space History invite proposals for presentations to be held at its joint symposium, “1961/1981: Key Moments in Human Spaceflight,” at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., on 26-27 April 2011. This symposium reflects on 50 years of human spaceflight using these two key dates in time as an entrée for broader investigation and insight. The symposium coincides with four significant anniversaries in the history of human spaceflight: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s inaugural human orbit of the Earth on 12 April 1961; the U.S.’s first human spaceflight with American astronaut Alan Shepard on 5 May 1961; the announcement on 25 May 1961 of the U.S. decision to go to the Moon by the end of the decade; and the Space Shuttle’s first flight into orbit on 12 April 1981. All four events resulted from a unique set of ideas, circumstances, and geopolitics which established a trajectory for future human operations in space. Although there will be a few invited speakers, most presentations will result from responses to the call for papers.

Accordingly, scholars from all disciplines, fields, and subject areas are invited to propose individual papers on aspects of the 1961/1981 theme. We especially invite graduate students and scholars newly entering the study of the history of spaceflight. The symposium will focus on new analytical insights and fresh scholarly analyses from a variety of social science and humanistic perspectives. Individual presentations will be scheduled for 20 minutes each and grouped by the conference organizers into thematically coherent panels that leave ample time for audience discussion.

Key questions of special interest to the symposium’s organizers include the following:
• What were the political, economic, social, and cultural factors that help explain the situation concerning human spaceflight in 1961? In 1981?
• What did it mean to be an astronaut or a cosmonaut in 1961, in 1981, and how has this changed over time from social, cultural, transnational, and institutional perspectives?
• What geopolitical factors have affected the manner in which various nations have approached the issue of human spaceflight?
• What does it mean for nations to be part of an elite “club” of human spacefarers?
• What goals in human spaceflight existed at various moments in the history of the space age? Have these changed over time and why?
• How might transnational historical themes, rather than nationalist perspectives, be deployed to understand these moments in time?
• What cultural influences (such as fiction, advertising, literature, art, music, labor movements, and globalism) help to explain these experiences?
• What technological developments drove the seizing of the two moments in 1961 and 1981to take human spaceflight in directions not achievable before?
• How have national approaches been different from each other in terms of their treatment of launch vehicles, human factors in space, selection and training of astronauts, cultural treatment of astronauts, and the like?
• What are the social, cultural, and political ramifications of these 1961/1981 moments in time and the place of fifty years of human spaceflight?
• What is the legacy of human spaceflight?
• What new insights might we explore about the different approaches that the U.S., the U.S.S.R./Russia, and China have taken to human spaceflight?
• What have we learned about national space agencies versus transnational consortia such as the European Space Agency versus private sector investment in human spaceflight capabilities?

Proposals may address any area of human spaceflight history related to the 1961/1981 theme. Proposals should be relatively brief (1-2 page abstracts would be fine) and should include a c.v. Proposals are due by 15 October 2010, with a decision made about selection for presentation by 31 December 2010.

Please send proposals to: Roger D. Launius (launiusr at and/or Steve Garber (stephen.j.garber at


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