Moontime: Global Synchronicity in the Age of Space

Thursday, January 3, 2019: 4:10 PM
Salon 12 (Palmer House Hilton)
Alexander C.T. Geppert, New York University
The Space Age was characterized by a specific temporal dimension. Not only was the assumption widespread that humankind's future would take place in outer space, but the prospect of infinite geographical expansion also entailed the promise of total control over time. While the establishment of a space station had initially been the primary objective of spaceflight, the prospective route to the universe was recalculated in the early 1960s. Experts, expecting nothing less than a new course in human history, now agreed that the moon constituted a necessary stepping stone to the universe. Enthusiasm did not last long, though. During the aptly termed, backward-looking post-Apollo period, the long-established link between imaginaries of outer space and phantasmagoric visions of a collective future in the stars loosened, and space fatigue replaced the Apollorausch. The moon landings came to be seen as the irrevocable apex of the Space Age rather than its auspicious vantage point. "Was the voyage of Apollo 11 the noblest expression of a technological age, or the best evidence of its utter insanity?," Norman Mailer wrote in 1970, bringing the dilemma to a head.

One particular interpretation of Apollo's significance, however, has remained valid with contemporary observers and present-day historians alike: the idea that on 21 July 1969 at 10:56:20 pm EDT an unprecedented moment of global synchronicity was reached, as a sixth of the world's population watched astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin set foot on the moon. Based on television footage from outside the US, this paper zooms in on the moon landing in order to disentangle the Space Age’s specific temporalities. It argues that this transient moment of media-invoked synchronicity ultimately constituted a form of practice, an early iteration of the world-encompassing simultaneity on which present-day planetization is built.

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