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Accepted Paper:

Repair as survival: reimagining the concept of repair in the 'new space age'  
Graham Minenor-Matheson (Linköping University)

Short abstract:

Reimagining repair as necessary for survival in outer space I extend repair as a conceptual tool to argue that repair as survival becomes vital because without tending to, or caring of infrastructure(s) through repair, astronauts/passengers would be left to the harsh conditions of space to perish.

Long abstract:

Failure, repair and maintenance. Long considered by NASA as vital concepts to the dream of regular spaceflight, they are also levers through which critics contribute to disrupting our collective imaginaries to reevaluate the role of the public sector in delivering space programs in favour of a growing private sector. As commercial companies become more involved in the “mundane” tasks of ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS aiming to make spaceflight sustainable through reusability, sustainability has become a recent buzzword omitting the importance of failure, repair and maintenance to the daily life of space exploration. The mundanity of repair which scholars inform us disappears into the background in earthly infrastructures, is so far invisible to commercial space.

As Valerie Neal argues, NASA promoted mundanity for the space shuttle as a “space truck” shuttling astronauts-mechanics in promoted missions of repair as part of a “working” age of space travel mundanity. Overshadowed by failures of the space shuttle this notion of focusing on repair and maintenance as an important part of space daily life is one that I argue should be returned to. Reimagining repair as necessary for survival in outer space using examples from science fiction and spaceflight history of failure, repair and maintenance, I will show how extending the concept of repair as a conceptual tool to argue that repair as survival in space becomes vital because without the tending to, or caring of essential infrastructure(s) through repair, astronauts/passengers would be left to the harsh conditions of space to perish.

Traditional Open Panel P371
Repair in outer space, repairing outer space
  Session 1