The Atlantic

How to Build a Museum in Outer Space

Researchers have begun to imagine how the people of the future might visit exhibits in orbit or on the moon.
Source: sdecoret / Nerthuz / Henrik Lehnerer / Shutterstock / The Atlantic

In 2001, Alice Gorman returned home after a long day of work, grabbed a cold beer, and settled into a chair on the veranda of her house in Australia. She lifted her head and stared at the night sky. Countless milky-white stars glittered in the velvety darkness. Her mind began to churn.

“I just started to think about the fact that there’s a lot of space junk up there, and wondered what its heritage value was,” Gorman recalls.

It sounds like an unusual thought, but not for Gorman. Gorman is an archaeologist. Her job is to examine artifacts and determine their place in human history. Earlier that day, Gorman had been at a field site in Queensland, inspecting millennia-old relics used by Aboriginal peoples.

After that evening on the veranda, Gorman began researching the heap of objects people have lofted above Earth—satellites, telescopes, space stations. She read about gravity and the natural forces that engineers use to deliver objects to space and keep them there. Perhaps, she wondered, the products of the space age deserve the same kind of care and commemoration as relics of the ancient past. Perhaps they, too, could be preserved in thoughtfully curated museum exhibits—not on Earth, but right there in space.

Imagine that experience: Future generations, equipped with advanced spacefaring technology,

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