Space tourism: a case of novel needs
Harro van Lente (Maastricht University)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper I will investigate the contested case of space tourism and the various ways in which new needs are mobilized. Struggles for the prospective market for space tourism bring forth particular visions of the future of space tourism and of novel needs.
Paper long abstract:
STS has challenged the standard notion that technology is developed to fulfil pre-given needs. Empirical studies show that when technologies are promised, developed and used, many things change in the same movement, including needs and, eventually, rights, when new needs have become self-evident. The malleability of needs raises intriguing questions about how novelty and needs are co-produced and whether such changes can be anticipated. Also, when needs are not pre-given, but dependent upon socio-technical configurations, and, in fact, both cause and effect of technological change, the question emerges what desirable directions are. In this paper I will investigate the contested case of space tourism and the various ways in which new needs are mobilized. Space tourism is not yet seen as a need, but that may change in due course. Several operators now offer space travel for private persons, or, at least, promise to organize such travels on a regular basis in the near future, with dropping costs. In their attempts to define and inhabit the prospective market for space tourism, these operators bring forth particular visions of the future of space tourism and why people would need it. In this case study I will investigate the unfolding of needs and the mobilization of publics in space tourism. Data are drawn from newspaper articles (2010-2017), websites of operators, popular books on space travel and governmental documents.
- Encounters between people, things and environments