Astrosociology Research Institute (ARI)

The original Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation dedicated to the development of astrosociology TM

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ARI:  understanding "space and society" from a grounded perspective... TM      /        World Wide Web     Astrosociology.org

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The new issue of our well-regarded quarterly newsletter, Astrosociological Insights, focuses on astrosociological research into private human spaceflight and simulations.
(For older issues, see the Virtual Library).
Open the PDF File
Check out the Special Issue of the Journal of Astropolitics. It's devoted exclusively to astrosociology! See the Virtual Library for additional information.


ARI Press Releases:
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Most Recent Releases:
Journal of Astrosociology - First Call for Manuscripts
Astrosociological Insights - New Call for Articles

Stonehenge / Ancient Astronomy Egyptian Pyramids / Space and Culture 1903:  First Powered Flight / Aeronautics and Astronautics 1957: Sputnik (1st Artificial Satellite) / Space Technology and Society 1961: Yuri Gargarin (First Human in Space) / Space History
President Kennedy's Moon Speech / Space Policy & Space Law
1969: Apollo 11 (First Moon Landing) / Human Space Exploration The Overview Effect / Space and Social Change Space Shuttle (Human Spaceflight) / Collaboration between Space and Social Science Communities Astronomy and the Space Sciences / Amateur Astronomy and the Space Advocacy Professional Astronomy (Pillars of Creation) / Impact of Astronomy and the Space Sciences

Astrosociology studies the reciprocal relationship between (1) space exploration (and related issues) and (2) society/culture/human behavior....
(click on photographs for additional information regarding some core astrosociological specializations)

2001: A Space Odyssey / Relationship between Science and Science Fiction ALH84001 and Radio Telescope / Astrobiology and SETI Nervous System Checkup / Medical Astrosociology Earth Science (A Hurricane from Space) / Societal Benefits of Space SpaceShipOne / Space Tourism, Privatization of Space, and Space Commercialization Deforestization from Space / Using Space Assets to Mitigate Social Problems Protection of Societies and Cultures / Planetary Defense The Internatiional Space Station / Behavioral Lessons from Orbital Missions Fictional Moon Base / Space Societies (i.e., Settlements & Colonies) Space and the Future of Terrestrial Social Structures / Spacefaring Societies Interstellar Space Travel / Humanity's Future in Space

What is Astrosociology?
Jim Pass

Definition of the Field

Astrosociology is a relatively new field defined as the study of astrosocial phenomena (i.e., the social, cultural, and behavioral patterns related to outer space).  The field originally began as a sociological perspective almost exclusively for a very short time.  Almost immediately, however, it became clear that contributions were required from the other social and behavioral sciences, the humanities, and the arts (hereafter referred to as the "social sciences" for brevity).  Thus, from almost the very beginning, astrosociology was intended as both (1) a subdiscipline of sociology and (2) a multidisciplinary field that includes, but is by no means limited to disciplines/fields such as psychology, anthropology, economics, social psychology, political science, space history, space law, space policy, philosophy, as well as the arts.  Thus, astrosociology is more inclusive than merely a sociological approach!

Astrosociology in its current form was founded in July 2003 by Dr. Jim Pass to fill a void in the social sciences that seemed nearly as expansive as the vacuum of space.  It is intended to make space research more balanced by adding a major focus -- the human dimension -- to our understanding of space exploration and related areas of inquiry such as space societies (more commonly referred to as space settlements and space colonies).  The field of astrosociology takes a perspective that emphasizes the study of the relationship between "outer space and society," sometimes referred to as the "intersection between space exploration and humanity." This relationship is characterized by a two-way, or reciprocal, interaction between the two and occurs at the micro, middle (or meso), macro, global, and, at some point in the future, the interplanetary level.

Looking Outward and Looking Inward

Astrosociologists do indeed look outward into space as most people would assume, but they also look inward at how space affects terrestrial societies.  A few good examples of the latter inward-looking perspective includes the analysis of solving social problems with space assets, the study of the impact of technology transfers and spinoffs on society, and the monitoring and study of social change moving a particular social system toward an ideal type known as a spacefaring society.  Astrosociology's inward gaze recognizes the obvious fact that most human beings still live on Earth, but also that space exploration affects those human beings and their social structures.  In fact, astrosociology remains relevant wherever humanity resides as the stars will have an impact.

Organization and Collaboration

It is abundantly clear that scientists, scholars, and practitioners of both major branches of science (i.e., the natural/physical branch and the social science branch) must work together in order to achieve the most comprehensive understanding of space exploration and all of the related issues.  We can no longer afford to rely solely on the traditional branch of science because the social science branch can contribute so much.  We can no longer afford to ignore the other branch of science if we wish to advance as a species in both environments (i.e., outer space and within "terrestrial" societies).  Rocket science is no longer adequate on its own -- the future of humanity in outer space requires equal input from the social science branch!

Astrosociology is now positioned to bridge the "Great Divide" between the two branches of science in a way that ties them both together, allowing humanity to move forward by increasing its knowledge about space and the place of the human species in the cosmos.  Such astrosocial knowledge will result in benefits to humanity in both extraterrestrial and terrestrial environments.  It is well past the time to consciously construct an astrosociological body of knowledge and related literature through an organized and formalized effort.

Thus, astrosociologists (through ARI and other means) seek to (1) organize both existing and student "social scientists" interested in issues related to outer space and (2) establish strong formal and permanent collaborative structures with the traditional members of the space community at the individual and organizational levels.  Developing astrosociology will benefit the sciences, people, organizations, societies, and humanity at large.  Outer space will impact on societies more strongly as the twentieth century unfolds, so humanity must step up to meet the challenge of understanding it; and, more importantly, taking advantage of it.  The good news:  social scientists interested in space issues no longer need to work in isolation.  Collaboration within the social science disciplines represents a vital objective.  In addition, students who desire to study the various issues related to any of the astrosociological specializations finally have a means to pursue their interests.

All members of the space community (e.g., space architects engineers, astronomers, and planetary scientists) who desire to broaden their perspectives to include various astrosociological issues are welcome to consider working with ARI in some capacity.  For example, there is a strong relationship between the fields of aerospace engineering and the field of astrosociology in the area of space societies.  We have focused on the physical environment for the most part in the past.  We must now begin to examine the social environment much more thoroughly.

Astrosociological Specializations

As one can see above by clicking on the various images at the top of this page, astrosociology could indeed become characterized by a large scope of specializations.  Some specializations do not yet exist.  Medical astrosociology is a good example of this.  Others, such as space history, space policy, and space law, do currently exist in various forms within different types of programs and departments.

Thus, it remains unclear at the outset of this field's development whether all, some, or none of these existing areas of study will fold into the field of astrosociology as specializations.  It may be that some do, while others exist within other programs and within astrosociology.  In any case, these topics have astrosociological relevance.  Thus although collaboration would become the least integrative option, even this alternative allows experts' ideas from other fields to cross-pollinate with those held by dedicated astrosociologists.  Only time will tell how things work themselves out.

Applied Astrosociology

For those who prefer a practical approach (rather than a more theoretical one) to conducting astrosociology, applied astrosociology provides an opportunity to make "tangible" contributions to human space exploration and related issues relevant to social life in outer space as well as on Earth.  Applied astrosociology is defined broadly as the application of astrosocial knowledge to the attempt to solve social problems relevant to both space concerns and all aspects of terrestrial social life.  This definition infers participation in the planning of space missions that involve a human presence in some way -- once astrosociologists receive access from the space community-- and evaluation research as well.  Applied astrosociology makes it possible to use knowledge for human benefit and progress, to instigate social change in a favorable direction.  Space-based energy is but one example of this.  Mitigation of social problems is another example.  

Thus, the idea of applied astrosociology is not new to sociology or the various other social sciences.  Rather, the field of astrosociology simply carries the same time-honored tradition forward in its new application of applied research to those space-related issues that involve the human dimension.    Undoubtedly, practical applications of astrosociological research and practice will prove invaluable to the progress of human space exploration and other endeavors in space.

Read the Inaugural Essay

Dr. Pass formally introduced astrosociology as a bonafide field in greater detail when he uploaded Part One of his Inaugural Essay to the original website, Astrosociology.com, in early January of 2004.  Part Two followed in November 2004.

Open the PDF File Open the PDF File

Click on a button above to read either part of the essay that first defined a new field called "astrosociology" and described its high level of potential for improving our understanding of the relationship between humanity and outer space.

 

What is ARI's Mission?

Mission Statement (from ARI Bylaws = revised on 11/14/2012)

The main purpose of the Astrosociology Research Institute (ARI) is to develop astrosociology as a multidisciplinary academic field consisting of the social and behavioral sciences, humanities, and the arts.  (It may also develop concurrently into a subdiscipline of sociology and each of the other individual social sciences).  Astrosociology is defined as the study of astrosocial phenomena (i.e., social, cultural, and behavioral patterns related to outer space). ARI's development of astrosociology serves to unite interested theoreticians, researchers, scholars, and STUDENTS together so they may more easily collaborate on space issues from a broad social-scientific perspective = that is, a concentration on the human dimension.

This effort includes, but is not limited to, the recognition of astrosociology as a legitimate field by the social science community and the space/aerospace community (including space agencies such as NASA and ESA). ARI is dedicated to assisting anyone interested in the development of astrosociology including, but not limited to, faculty, students, social science scholars and researchers, space scientists and engineers, and space advocates. Beyond individuals, ARI will work with organizations of various types that support the development of astrosociology in a variety of different ways.

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Related Practical Objectives

ARI seeks to carry out its mission in a number of different ways that are instituted simultaneously as well as added later to the program agenda as funding and relationships with other individuals and entities allow in the future.

World-Class Research and Theory Building -- ARI Research Associates, along with ARI staff, members, supporters, sponsors, and volunteers, will continue their first-rate efforts already begun that further the astrosociology knowledge base and improve humanity's understanding of its presence in space and the impact of space on societies on Earth.  The development of this field requires conducting pioneering research and the construction of new theoretical constructs.

Conferences -- ARI seeks to demonstrate the relevance of astrosociology and make significant contributions to space research involving human beings at all levels of social analysis (i.e., micro, meso, macro, global, and interplanetary) at conferences of different types.  It is important for ARI to take advantage of such forums in order to inject the human dimension into traditional approaches such as engineering.  Attempts to understand human groups and societies in space environments, as well as the impact of space on terrestrial societies, will become vital as the twenty-first century unfolds.  ARI will continue to send out Calls for Papers and endeavor to create new relationships with the hosting professional organizations.

Presence in Academia -- A core component of ARI's mission involves various types of efforts aimed at establishing astrosociology in academia by creating courses in existing departments and programs, and at some point in the future as part of independent dedicated departments and programs.  Astrosociology cannot remain relegated to conferences alone, but must move into traditional academic settings.  Many of the projects and other efforts that arise in the future will dedicate themselves to this vital objective.

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Student Support -- As funding allows, ARI assists students to study astrosociology, and excel in school while doing so.  Forms of assistance include providing scholarships, partial defrayment of expenses associated with conference attendance/participation, internships at ARI (online and eventually at ARI's physical site), and access to academic resources.

Liaison Program -- ARI serves to promote students to pursue astrosociology for term papers, theses, and dissertations through formal contact with their faculty members and/or advisors in order to demonstrate to everyone involved of the legitimacy of astrosociology as an emerging academic field.  Students have somewhere to turn if faculty question their decisions to pursue a topic related to astrosociology.

Faculty Support -- ARI assists faculty members and independent scholars interested in astrosociology by providing resources to utilize in their research efforts.  ARI serves as a contact from whom their colleagues and superiors can request information about astrosociology and the efforts of ARI.  ARI encourages faculty to pursue astrosociological research.

World-Class Libraries -- Online and physical manifestations of the ARI Library will provide students and scholars with access to a growing catalog of astrosociological materials useful to their research.  The Virtual Library already exists at this website -- continued from the site called Astrosociology.com -- and serves to provide all interested parties, from veteran astrosociologists to newcomers to the field, with an ever-growing number of references for use in their work.

Future Projects -- ARI plans to institute a wide-ranging array of projects to assist interested individuals and organizations in contributing to the development of astrosociology.  ARI will provide research opportunities and supportive programs for organizations in addition to the members, supporters, and others with whom ARI forms a relationship.  Thus, ARI seeks to work with individuals and organizations who wish to assist in furthering ARI's mission in a variety of ways.  Possibilities of collaborative relationships include conference sponsorships, curriculum development, and work on individual research projects.

Programs relating to the following areas remain under consideration for the future:
    •
Annual astrosociology conference
    • Online astrosociology course(s)
    • Refereed astrosociology journal

    • Astrosociology research affiliations

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How Do I Become an Astrosociologist?

When we state that ARI seeks to develop astrosociology as a legitimate field, we refer to the process in which we are working to move the subject matter that falls under its purview into academic programs and departments.  This means that a big part of ARI's mission involves assisting students who decide they wish to pursue astrosociology in their academic careers. ARI seeks to bring space into the social science classroom (and any classroom receptive to it) in the form of astrosociology.  We believe that a considerable number of social science students will gravitate toward astrosociology once academic organizations make it available.

This mission also involves providing assistance to faculty and independent scholars who wish to pursue astrosociology or include it in some way in their existing research.  "Astrosociological" research has been taking place throughout the space age on a limited, individualistic basis.  ARI now seeks to create a viable astrosociological community in which proponents of this field can interact in various ways.

Thus, becoming an astrosociologist involves working with ARI and members of the growing astrosociological community to develop this field.  ARI will work in concert with a number of different partnering organizations, including -- but not limited to --  schools, professional associations, advocacy groups, and research organizations.

The Astrosociology Research Institute exists to accomplish all of these objectives in pursuit of its mission to develop astrosociology.  Please join us as we move forward.

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