Friday, August 29, 2008

Rockets Galore

I love my students. They bring me all sorts of space things - plastic astronauts, pop-up books, science fiction magazines, records. A few days ago darling Martin gave me "Rockets Galore" by Compton Mackenzie, with the dustjacket intact. I read "Whiskey Galore" years ago, but did not know about this sequel, in which the British Government attempts to build a rocket range on some remote Scottish islands. It's fabulous. There's a German rocket scientist, Dr Hamburger, crofters turned off their land and forced to migrate (shades of the Kourou expropriations), protests, and, of course, a romance.

It was originally published in 1957, the year Sputnik 1 was launched, and 10 years after the establishment of Woomera, and was also made into a feature film. Haven't finished reading it yet but will be curious to see if they do mention Woomera ....

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New directions in Australian space policy

My ever charming friend Brett Biddington has recently released a paper about Australia's space future (Biddington, Brett 2008 Skin in the Game: Australia's National Interests in Space to 2025. Kokoda Papers Number 7, Kokoda Foundation, Canberra). He says:

Since the mid-90s, the Commonwealth has pursued a highly decentralised approach to space amongst its departments and agencies. This is not considered a tenable option for the future (Biddington 2008:58).

He proposes two new organisations: a Central Policy Coordination Body, and a Satellite Design and Operations Authority. The latter might be a statutory authority, a company, or a national research facility. The former is not necessarily an agency as such, but would play the role of being Australia's voice in the space world - our lack of such a unified voice is detrimental to our credibility in this sphere at present.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Kokatha and the Cold War

Another conference, another abstract .... Andrew Starkey and I are proposing this one for the Australian Archaeological Association Annual Conference in December.

The Kokatha and the Cold War: Indigenous and technological heritage at Woomera, South Australia.

Andrew Starkey (Kokatha) and Alice Gorman (Flinders University)

In 1947, the Woomera rocket range was established in the supposedly “empty” desert north of Port Augusta in South Australia. Over the next 60 years, Woomera was Australia’s primary Cold War site, developing missiles and launch vehicles, and participating in US and European military and space programmes. It is still an active launch site. More recently the Woomera Prohibited Area has been opened to mineral exploration, leading to an increase in cultural heritage surveys.

The desert around the Woomera village is the traditional country of the Kokatha. The Woomera Heritage Centre, recently redesigned, separates the history of space technology from both Indigenous and pastoral occupation. In this paper, we examine the intersection of military and space technology with Kokatha heritage in the Prohibited Area. We argue that in order to understand its significance, Woomera must be contextualised as part of early Cold War space enterprises, where launch sites were located in colonised lands heavily impacted by the introduction of disease, dispossession from country, and development. Woomera can be regarded as a cultural landscape created by the establishment of a technological enclave within Indigenous country, with the underlying theme, from 1947 to the present, of nuclear arms development.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Rocket cakes rock

My culinary boffin friend Kaylene sent me this wonderful rocket cake website:

All kinds of inspiring rocket cakes here. This picture is a taste: cutting the cake at the first anniversary of the Redstone Arsenal.