Perched on a hill overlooking rolling downs, on a beautiful autumn afternoon, Mullard Space Lab is unexpectedly located in a country mansion in rural Surrey. It was the perfect setting to find out more about the stories of space science from the personal perspectives of the scientists who work there. Moving through the spaces of the house and – after dark – around the garden lit by flickering fires, torches and candles, we followed the stories of launches, orbits, constructions, failures and the dark unknowns of the universe. Satellites are woven into the fabric of this extraordinary place and it was a very different way to experience this situated knowledge.
Listening to the scientists talking afterwards, I realised what a radical departure the storytelling had been from their usual public engagement type activities, and appreciated their spirit in taking part in the event with such creativity and enthusiasm. The many people who attended – people of all ages, with children making rockets and lanterns and doing treasuer hunts – were enchanted by the setting and the stories.
In a completely different vein, I had just returned from FACT’s Human Futures symposium in Liverpool, which launched their new book of the same title, edited by Andy Miah, to which I am a contributor. Science fiction and philosopher Russell Blackford called for a liberal approach to new biotechnologies for the future, the remarkable historian and cultural criticNorman M Klein spoke of versions of the future conceived that never happened, Zai from the etoy.CORPORATION discussed its project Mission Eternity, and designers Fiona Raby, Michael Burton and Revital Cohendiscussed their remarkable design work which aims to stimulate debate about the social, cultural and ethical implications of biotechnology.