One small step for man, one giant leap for the career fair — meet a space archaeologist!

TEDxSydney speaker Alice Gorman might have one of the coolest job titles ever … space archaeologist. To have known that was a career option back in second grade!

Yep, Alice doesn’t research the things we don’t normally associate with archaeologists — clay pots or ancient weapons or old bones. Instead, she takes on the artifacts we leave beyond our planet: footprints, abandoned satellites, debris, even the American flag.

In her talk at TEDxSydney, Alice lets us in on some of the cool parts of her job, and explains just what space archaeology is all about:

In 1969, the Apollo 11 mission landed on the surface of the moon and changed the way we view the moon forever.

The moon has always been a huge part of human life: it governs the tides; it’s the light in the sky that we see at night; so many myths and legends are centered on the moon.

But now it’s a human landscape. Tranquility Base, where those astronauts first set foot on the moon, is an archeological site. They’ve left artifacts there; they’ve left footprints; we [can] analyze those footprints and artifacts to learn something about that very extraordinary kind of encounter with the landscape…

These artifacts and places, these are human, material interactions with the solar system, with the space environment … They remind us that space isn’t just empty and vast and black and dark and somewhere else out there. We’re actually part of it. We connected to the Earth’s orbit, to the very edge of the solar system.

Space archaeology is something that connects us to our past in space … and to our future in the stars. And that future is yours and mine to decide.

So, next time someone asks what you wanna be when you grow up, you can totally blow them out of the water (or outta this world). And if you’d like to learn more about the cultural history of space, check out Alice’s talk here.

(Above, thanks to NASA, the Earth as seen from the moon, Neil Armstrong’s famous lunar footprints, and Mars Curiosity
's first tracks on the Red Planet.)

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