Connecting the physical and social perceptions on human identity, form and function in space to define the parameters of space faring individuals.

Sarah Jane Pell, Sara Langston

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperOther


This paper and presentation follows up on discussions started by the authors in their IAC 2014 paper: "What is in a name? Perceived identity, classification, philosophy, and implied duty of the 'astronaut'." Building on this foundation we continue the conversation beyond the origins and implications of defining an 'astronaut' and further lead the discussion on questions, perspectives and even controversies encompassing the prospective space roles for the new commercial space age. The significance of this discussion, as demonstrated in our previous research, is that public and political conceptions and perceptions of what identities a person as an 'astronaut' both informs and impacts human communications, societal expectations and actions in regard to that identity. Specifically, through an original and creative presentation we will connect the dots and highlight the intricate ecosystem of relevant physical, social and political questions and factors with regard to an 'astronaut's' identity and provide a comprehensive framework of the actors, approaches, linguistics and implications involved. These issues may include: 1) Distinguishing nongovernmental from governmental astronauts, commercial crew from spaceflight participants, and permanent versus transitory actors in space. 2) Distinguishing human astronauts from nonhumans - such as robotic envoys, artificial intelligence, other animals, and potential "Chewbacca's" (non-terrestrial space farers); distinguishing the human astronaut from technological artifacts (spacesuit/spacecraft). 3) Evaluating notions of 'trans-humanism' for spaceflight: adapting or enhancing humans for space - the range of medical implications here can range from minimal physiological intervention to science fiction. 4) Identifying the moral values and policy frameworks triggered by these actual/prospective human space activities. The ultimate objective of this paper and presentation is to create an open space for dialogue and to foster an informed and multidisciplinary conversation on humanity's identity, form and function in space, today and in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication68th International Astronautical Congress, IAC 2017
Subtitle of host publicationUnlocking Imagination, Fostering Innovation and Strengthening Security
PublisherInternational Astronautical Federation (IAF)
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9781510855373
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2017 - Adelaide, Australia
Duration: 25 Sept 201729 Sept 2017
Conference number: 68th

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
ISSN (Print)0074-1795


ConferenceInternational Astronautical Congress (IAC) 2017
Abbreviated titleIAC 2017
Internet address


  • Astronaut classification
  • Astronautical terminology
  • Commercial space law
  • Legal definition
  • Space sociology

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