Class Name
ANT 3082 New Frontiers: Anthropology of Space

Associate Professor Lana Williams

When the class is offered?
Even summer terms

ANT 2000 or equivalent

Describe this course in 10 words or fewer.
Examine physiological and sociocultural challenges in space exploration and settlement.

What are three key concepts students will learn about?

  • Historical and current concepts of cosmologies of space as a place, encountering alien life, practicing space archaeology with “space junk” and identity/qualities expected in space program participants.
  • Physical, social, and cultural effects accompanying space exploration, exploitation, industrialization, entrepreneurship, tourism, and immigration experience (e.g., technology, economics, criminal justice, and bioethics and policy)
  • World building and ongoing debates and processes in humanity developing a sustainable society in space.

Why should students take this course?

  • It’s fun! If you are interested in anything space-related (from science fiction and other life forms to the next rocket launch and moon/Mars settlement), you can explore it in a new context, share your viewpoint and find new complexities in meaning for that interest.
  • A major part of the American space program is in our “backyard” – this is an opportunity to learn and explore UCF’s and Florida’s history in this program.
  • We are living in a reality of cutting-edge science, technological sophistication, and fact-based speculation for building self-contained environments in space, colonizing Mars and much more. The ability to critically analyze scientific writing, news stories, fiction, and other media and evaluate how physical adaptations and social concepts might shape a future of living and working in space is becoming a valuable skill not only for daily life, but also for some fields of employment.

What does the coursework entail?

  • No textbook required. We use articles and media easily accessed directly through course links and our UCF Library.
  • Weekly 10-question quizzes
  • Three group point-of-view discussions (debate space as a “frontier,” choose an alien form and meet your “new neighbor,” make decision based on permanent settlement or return to Earth)
  • Future newscast project (three-minute recorded PowerPoint presenting a future event taking place in space) and peer discussion on presentations
  • Two exams

What skills and knowledge will students gain from this course that will benefit them in other courses and their careers?
Employers in many fields — such as public health, humanitarian aid, law enforcement, communications, business, technology and education — increasingly value education in anthropology. In today’s diverse and connected world, being culturally and scientifically informed and aware of human interactions is essential. This is an interesting way to explore and gain these skills.

From this course, students will be able to:

  • Connect anthropological concepts and critical analysis to the study of scientific and technical concepts.
  • Apply knowledge, skills, and responsibilities to novel settings and complex problems.
  • Participate in discussion and problem-solving activities in an effective manner.

Why is it important to think about space through the lens of anthropology as space exploration is growing nationally?
Even though nearly all humans need the same things to survive, like food, water, and companionship, the ways people meet these needs and the institutions that surround them can be very different. Studying space through anthropology provides an extraordinary and distinctive set of skills for thinking and investigating our past and future interactions, expanding awareness of our place in the natural world, and the importance of understanding the diversity in and around us. Anthropology will be critical to successful human exploration and migration into space.

Anthropology is already being applied through:

  • Bioethics: Issues in space and their impact on future political decisions related to objectives and nature of space missions, economic and civil liberty, and sustainable infrastructure within closed-community living.
  • Space archaeology: The historical preservation, recovery, and cultural expectations of “space junk” and the material culture of lunar- and Earth-based objects.
  • First contact protocols: Contextualizing other life form encounters through anthropological precedent in cross-cultural research.
  • Biological change and adaptation: Examining short- and long-term effects of living in space and off-Earth colonies.
  • Ethnogenesis: Emergence of new cultural identities; examining expected divergence from Earth-based culture, as ethnicity, language, values, symbols and philosophies and religions may be altered or cast aside.

From the Student

Carolina Campoverde-Spiwak, a senior studying anthropology

Why did you take this course?
I enrolled in this class to learn more about the universe, NASA, the space program, and how humans explored and got to space.  It was a fascinating topic, and I also needed a second class for that part of the summer semester.

What was the most challenging aspect of this course?
The exams were the most challenging because each module was heavily packed with so much information. But some of this is due to the summer A/B semesters being so short. It was hectic to learn so many fascinating things but having to quickly move on to the next topic with each exam being very intricate.

What did you like most about the course?I really enjoyed most of the format of the class. What I liked the most were the lectures, not only the ones made by the teacher but also the extra ones included in each module. I learn best with visual representations of the subject matter.

What is the most interesting thing you learned?
It would have to be how we can terraform a planet, and what it would take to make another planet like Mars habitable. It was amazing to learn about how the space program was started and all the different missions, and astronauts that have participated in space exploration.