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Into the Extreme

U.S. Environmental Systems and Politics beyond Earth

2018
Author:

Valerie Olson

Into the Extreme

The first book-length, in-depth ethnography of U.S. human spaceflight

This book reveals how outer space contributes the scope and scale of today’s natural and social environments. With access to spaceflight worksites ranging from astronaut training programs to life science labs, Valerie Olson examines how U.S. experts work within the solar system as the container of life and as a vast site for new forms of technical and political environmental control.

What if outer space is not outside the human environment but, rather, defines it? This is the unusual starting point of Valerie Olson’s Into the Extreme, revealing how outer space contributes to making what counts as the scope and scale of today’s natural and social environments. With unprecedented access to spaceflight worksites ranging from astronaut training programs to life science labs and architecture studios, Olson examines how U.S. experts work within the solar system as the container of life and as a vast site for new forms of technical and political environmental control.

Olson’s book shifts our attention from space’s political geography to its political ecology, showing how scientists, physicians, and engineers across North America collaborate to build the conceptual and nuts-and-bolts systems that connect Earth to a specifically ecosystemic cosmos. This cosmos is being redefined as a competitive space for potential economic resources, social relations, and political strategies.

Showing how contemporary U.S. environmental power is bound up with the production of national technical and scientific access to outer space, Into the Extreme brings important new insights to our understanding of modern environmental history and politics. At a time when the boundaries of global ecologies and economies extend far below and above Earth’s surface, Olson’s new analytic frameworks help us understand how varieties of outlying spaces are known, made, and organized as kinds of environments—whether terrestrial or beyond.

Into the Extreme

Valerie Olson is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine.

Into the Extreme

Contents
Introduction: Space Systems
1. Metasystem
2. Connection
3. Separation
4. Transhabitation
5. Solar Ecosystem
Conclusion: Future Space
Acknowledgments
Bibliography