Space archaeologists are conducting a study on the culture and society that has grown since the International Space Station (ISS) was established in the orbit more than 17 years ago. Researchers will examine millions of photos, data, and astronaut artifacts that will give them new insights into how astronauts from different backgrounds interacted and adjusted to life in space.
The latest mission is known as the ‘ISS archaeology’ is seeking ways to comprehend the ‘micro-society’ aboard the ISS. Scientists working on the project plan to treat the space station as they would do on an ancient site. Among the items to be studied are the dining utensils, religious icons, sleeping bags, family images and much more.
The Space Archaeology program started in 2015 when NASA was searching for a new class of astronauts to join their team of scientists. The space agency encouraged scientists from different backgrounds including the geologists, computer experts, and doctors to apply for various positions in the agency.
However, Justin Walsh, an archaeologist from Chapman University, California, noted that social scientists were not included in the newest category. He claimed that the space agency should consider including social scientists if they what to understand how astronaut societies and culture are formed and maintained.
As a result, Walsh and Alice Gorman from Flinders University, Australia, are documenting space artifacts covering the Space Age period (of over 60 years). The duo is carrying an archaeological assessment of ISS which has been involved in five space agencies and been visited by more than 252 astronauts from 18 countries since 2000.
The two researchers will not fly to the space station themselves but they will use the available photos captured for over two decades on the ISS to document the developmental changes within the space station micro-culture. The archaeologists will also employ the crowd-sourcing to help them tag and catalog the massive cache of images. They will also use machine learning and AI to augment the outcome. According to Walsh, the project might take some years.
Walsh and Gorman believe that their approach could help space agencies with crucial data on how tensions between astronauts arise and how crews from different countries interact with each other.