October 28, 2016

Colloquium Speaker: Michael J. Neufeld

Michael J. Neufeld is a Senior Curator in the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, where he is responsible for the early rocket collection and for Mercury and Gemini spacecraft. Born and raised in Canada, he has four history degrees, including a PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1984. Dr. Neufeld has written three books, The Skilled Metalworkers of Nuremberg (1989), The Rocket and the Reich (1995), which won two book prizes, and Von Braun (2007), which won three awards. He has edited five others: Planet Dora, The Bombing of Auschwitz, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Spacefarers, and Milestones of Space. Recently he has published articles on NASA planetary exploration since 1989 and the origins of neutral buoyancy training in the 1960s.

Colloquium Topic: The Difficult Birth of NASA’s Pluto Mission

The complex and contested origins of the New Horizons mission to Pluto, launched by NASA in 2006, provides a window on how space science policy has been formulated in the United States before and after the turn of the twenty-first century, and how the shifting network of institutions that support and shape space science have changed since 1989. The New Horizons case study reveals a shift in the balance of power around 2000 among the important players in the field, increasing the influence of non-NASA actors—notably Congress, science groups and planetary-exploration lobbies. In addition, the origins of New Horizons reveals how contingent and complex the emergence of a particular space science mission can be.