Far Beyond the Moon: A History of Life Support Systems in the Space Age

Far Beyond the Moon

A History of Space-Age Life Support Systems                                                            

At 7pm on Thursday, April 13th, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum will host Dr. David Munns, professor of history at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, for an evening lecture on the diverse technical systems needed to support life in space.

Munns’s lecture will draw heavily from his 2021 book Far Beyond the Moon: A History of Life Support Systems in the Space Age, co-authored with Kärin Nickelsen (University of Pittsburgh Press). In Far Beyond the Moon, Munns shares the dramatic story of engineering efforts by astronauts and scientists to create artificial habitats for humans in orbiting space stations, as well as on journeys to Mars and beyond. Along the way, he explores the less than glamorous but very real problem posed by self-contained, long-term life support: How can biological waste be recycled to create clean air, water, and food in highly regulated artificial environments?

Munns’s retelling of midcentury science highlights the unsung heroes of the space program—the sanitary engineers, nutritionists, plant physiologists, bacteriologists, and algologists who created and tested artificial environments for space based on chemical technologies of life support. It is a “bottom up” historiographic view that speaks to the past and future of interstellar sustainability.

The lecture will take place at 7:00pm in the Museum’s Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium. Tickets are available online on the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s website. This event is made possible with the support of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

David Munns is a Professor in the Department of History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He earned a Ph.D. in History of Science and Technology at Johns Hopkins University, and a M.Phil. from the University of Sydney.

Munns is an expert in the histories of astronomy and environmental technologies. His first book, ­A Single Sky: How an International Community Forged the Science of Radio Astronomy (MIT Press, 2013), examined astronomy’s departure from visible light and the intrepid work of radio engineers to set aside Cold War rivalries in an international effort to reveal the structure of the universe. His second book, Engineering the Environment: Phytotrons and the Quest for Climate Control in the Cold War (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017), was the first history of phytotrons, large laboratories that enabled plant scientists to experiment on environmental causes.

Prior to joining John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Munns held positions at Drexel University in Pennsylvania and Imperial College London.

Address: 180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport, NY 11713

Date & Time: Thursday, April 13th (04/13/2023) at 7:00pm

Website & Tickets: www.vanderbiltmuseum.org/featured-events/

Press Inquiries: Patrick Keefe, Director of Communications, patrick@vanderbiltmuseum.org