College of Charleston
“It matters which worlds world worlds.”
— Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble
On 11 September 2017, Hurricane Irma touched down on James Island, a suburban community in Charleston County, South Carolina, in the Southeastern United States. Irma set records in Charleston, producing the region’s “worst tidal surge since Hurricane Hugo” in 1989 (Bartelme). Nine houses on my street took water that day, many for the second or third time in just three years. The day after the flood, I found myself sitting in the shelter of my garage, staring out at the yard where there had accumulated piles of soaked debris. I thought, “I would really rather be anywhere but here right now. A one-way ticket to Mars would be just fine.” My imaginative escape path led quickly to the media coverage of the Cassini spacecraft’s final “kiss,” or, force-gathering fly-by, of Saturn’s moon Titan, which also commenced on 11 September (Dyches). The “Goodbye Kiss” was designed so that the Cassini would gain momentum for an intentional crash into the planet’s gaseous atmosphere, marking the end of a twenty-year-long collaboration among the European Space Agency (ESA), the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to study Saturn and its satellites. In my virtual exploration of the Cassini-Huygens Legacy mission, I became struck with the parallel stakes of property ownership that exist for my own microcosmic realty investment as they are caught up with a global history of colonization, of which the Cassini-Huygens mission (and Space exploration as a whole) is a part.
Cognitive philosopher Shaun Gallagher describes the social stakes of distributed cognitive systems such as the International Astronomy Union’s (IAU)’s “Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature” (Gazette): “sometimes the really powerful practices and institutions… are the ones that we don’t notice, or ones that are so intrinsic to our lives that they remain invisible” (175). The following analysis of the Gazette brings to light assumptions carried forward in scientific legacies that run the risk of occluding knowledge that stands to be gained through an effective actualization of more inclusive praxes. Increased care in nomenclature taxonomy may help to avoid the perpetuation of the dominance of Earth’s superpower nations in locations across the solar system and increase access to authoritative roles in the domains of astronomy and cosmography for more people who call Earth home. A taxonomical study of the body of data presented by the Gazette nudges the capacity of astronomy and its related disciplines towards what feminist and de-colonial philosopher of science Sandra Harding and others have called “strong objectivity,” a practice by which “certain kinds of objectivity can be mutually supporting” in the refinement of evolving concepts of objectivity through decentering socially exclusive approaches to scientific methods (Objectivity 5). Diversifying the participants of professional astronomy and cosmography projects on a global scale holds the potential to radically alter these professions. With delegations of more diverse cohorts of cosmographers and astronomers to major global research facilities may come changes to the kinds of questions we are asking about our human relationship to Space, the methods by which we perform our experiments, and the ends towards which this research is applied.
Addressing cosmographical conquest qua cultural performance allows interdisciplinary strategies for conscientiously shaping an intra-systemic culture to transpire in our present, wherein the performatic conquest of other planets is still in process and therefore subject to intervention and change. Within Diana Taylor’s proposed performatico, embodied performances, lexica, and technics are implicated as cooperative elements in the project of empire building. Here, I discuss the performatics of extra-human bodies like Cassini-Huygens’s conjoined robot body and the body of data managed within the WGPSN Gazette in terms of their potential to reinforce or reshape Earth’s conquest legacies.
Cassini/Huygens: Socio-Scientific Legacies
As I scramble to devise a viable solution to coastal home ownership in the face of late stage capitalism and environmental decline on Earth, U.S. Vice President Michael Pence conjures images of “space pioneers” in tones nostalgic for American settler colonialism. In his 23 August 2018 address at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, he unveiled plans for the establishment of a U.S. military Space Force that would see a “permanent [American] presence around and on the Moon.” Pence proposed the Space Force as a solution to perceived threats to U.S. national security, an issue that involves military competition with other nations as well as anxieties surrounding the depletion of Earth’s natural resources. Pence’s address waters imaginative seeds of interplanetary travel that are sown with increasing frequency in the minds of global news audiences. Reports of successful Earth landings on small and large planetary bodies (planets, dwarf planets, moons, and asteroids) within our solar system are becoming a quietly ubiquitous element of weekly news feeds; Japan’s MINERVA II1 program landed two “hopping robots” on the surface of the asteroid Ryugu in September of 2018 (Bartels), and in November NASA successfully set down the InSight Lander on the surface of Mars (Agle et al.). Legacy missions to intra-systemic planetary bodies, and scientific outreach programs that disseminate these large-scale science experiments to the world, perform a familiarization with astronomical discovery that serves the important purpose of inviting a diverse range of interested audiences into the scientific process. However, certain methods of astronomical research repeat patterns of European conquest that perpetuate habits of cultural exclusion and othering that have been a part of astronomy, and its related discipline of cosmography, since at least the European conquest of the Americas. In this article, I examine digital artifacts published by IAU, NASA, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in order to tease out the contradictory nature of contemporary Space exploration towards the end of realizing an inclusive global culture that equally values science and humanities disciplines.
Most of the nomenclature and supporting data used throughout this article comes from the IAU’s Gazette, a present-day cosmographical publication. The IAU is an international organization consisting of 13568 members from 107 countries around the world (“About the IAU” n.p.). The IAU umbrellas nine working groups dedicated to the study of scientific, technological, cultural, and educational aspects of astronomy. A large part of the work performed by the IAU has to do with nomenclature. The Gazette is updated by the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN), maintained by the Planetary Geomatics Group of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and supported by NASA. The Oxford English Dictionary defines cosmography as “the science which describes and maps the general features of the universe (both the heavens and the earth), without encroaching on the special provinces of astronomy or geography” (Oxford English Dictionary, “cosmography” n.p.). This process involves cartography, exploration, discovery, and the assignment of nomenclature. Cosmography encompasses the interdisciplinary cultural imagination of a people as they define themselves in relationship to an ever-expanding world — on Earth and in Space. The Gazette is a digital archive dedicated to tracking and organizing the physical features of every planetary body in our solar system in an astronomical taxonomy (classification system) that incorporates elements of observational astronomy, geographical studies, and literary, scientific, and cultural histories. The extraterritorial nomenclature system, as performed in the Gazette, can be traced to cosmographical processes deployed during the naming of the Americas. Historian Christine Johnson claims that the “naming of America demonstrates the accommodation and reformulation of existing structures of scholarly knowledge in the light of European expansion” (4). “Earth,” in the twenty-first century, might well stand in for “Europe” in a discussion of cultural and geographic expansion. Johnson argues that, “the model of an intellectual breakthrough precipitated by the discovery of America should be modified in favour [sic] of one in which the reality of a New World was constructed through the interplay of authoritative theories and conventions and the new empirical data slowly spreading through Europe” (6). The cognitive act of naming during the early Age of Exploration inscribed European ways of knowing upon the American continent while at the same time expanding the European imaginary to encompass that “new” land. As a cosmographical artifact, the Gazette can easily be read as reflecting the cumulative scientific processes and cultural imaginations of people who would name newly discovered territories in Space. The cycle of discovery and naming of extraterritorial topographies shapes the way that we, as humans, conceive of ourselves in relationship with the mysterious and surprising world of the solar system.
The capacity to cosmographically imagine worlds — new and not so new — is an underlying component of Taylor’s “conquest scenario,” a historiographical framework that can be extended beyond her original Americas context to address the question presented by humans in Space (13). Taylor puts forth an original conquest performance: “The ceremony legitimated the act; Columbus, the main protagonist, embodied the power of the realm. The authorized spectators validated the transfer; the unauthorized spectators were reduced to transferable objects” (57). She describes Columbus’s American conquest as the first of many subsequent conquering rituals, each containing the same elements — a distant staging, surveyance, declamatory utterances, signifying objects — a performance capable of transforming formerly neutral, distant, observers to spectators with some authority over newly-discovered “transferable objects.” From a science-historical perspective, Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra offers that science technologies and conquest technologies have always been co-creative. He describes the “chivalric epistemology” popular during Portuguese and Spanish global expansion of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as a socio-scientific process that situates “the cosmographer as knight, or the knight as cosmographer” (Nature 10). Cañizares-Esguerra narrates the ways that figures such as Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan influenced Northern European explorers like Sir Walter Raleigh and others who re-enacted this tradition, naming rivers and places in the “New World” after themselves and their royal patrons. Harding suggests that, “science and the scientific enterprise formed part of and facilitated colonial development […] colonial experience [in turn] affected science and the contemporary scientific enterprise” (Multicultural 39). Harding analyzes fifteenth-century global European conquest to critique legacies of andro- and Eurocentric practices involved in the twenty-first century conquest of our solar system.
Framing conquest and science as “legacy” brings traditions, people, and technologies separated by large swaths of time and space closer together for comparative purposes. The discipline of astronomy itself is a legacy, built upon the innovations of its past practitioners. The use of historical astronomical photographs to track and analyze patterns in the motions of celestial objects constitutes one kind of scientific legacy. The re-use and application of old technological and computer systems for new projects is another. Delegations of representatives from smaller institutions such as observatories and research institutions to larger organizations and networks such as the IAU are also in important aspect of cosmographical legacies because these delegates make decisions about how objects in our solar system should, or should not, be named. A legacy could be a mechanical body — a spacecraft or rover — sent from Earth on a mission to another planet, like Saturn, or even “the act of sending such a body” (Oxford English Dictionary, “legacy” n.p.). Earth’s legacy is enacted through surrogate rovers and spacecrafts like the conjoined Cassini orbiter and Huygens probe. In referring to Cassini-Huygens as a legacy, spatial and temporal resonances with traditions of astronomical experiments and astronautical exploration begin to take shape. Understanding current cosmographical praxes as legacies allows for an assessment of which elements are working and what aspects are better left in the past to achieve a model of cosmographical best practices that might truly come to benefit all humanity.
The name, Cassini-Huygens Legacy, intentionally invokes its Enlightenment astronomer-namesakes. Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625-1712) and Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695), antagonistic darlings of the early Académie des Sciences (est. 1666), each made significant contributions to European understanding of Saturn through their experiments with telescope lengths throughout the seventeenth century. Huygens identified Titan in 1655, and astronomers still refer to Huygens’ Gap and the Cassini Division — both elements of Saturn’s rings. The Cassini-Huygens Legacy mission (1997-2017) has significantly expanded upon Cassini’s and Huygens’ original observations of the ringed gas giant and its moons. An active planetary body, Saturn is now thought to be capable of catalyzing the conditions necessary for life, in part, through the tides it inspires in some of its moons. In 2005, the Huygens probe detached from the Cassini spacecraft and came to rest on Titan’s surface, where it will remain. The Huygens camera continued to perform its function as interplanetary mediator for seventy-two minutes after landing. Huygens captured and communicated information about Titan’s physical systems, recording the moon’s atmospheric composition and wind patterns; evidence of river beds, lakes, and possible subsurface ocean; and measurements of surface dunes, volcanic radioactivity, and the make-up of Titan’s surface matter, which includes ice as well as carbon-based deposits (“Highlights”). This data is rendered accessible to popular Earth audiences as it is transduced — altered or augmented to become comprehensible for diverse observers — through a series of human adjustments and computer-aided data-imaging processes. The transduced images and performances are then disseminated through a variety of media outlets to serve as the subject of a number of educational outreach campaigns, which in turn inspire today’s science enthusiasts to think more deeply about Space.
Part of Christiaan Huygens’s scientific legacy is a hope for astronomy to become accessible to non-scientists and scientists alike, as he demonstrated through his efforts to popularize his adaptation of the pendulum clock, which he peddled to navigators, sailors, and natural philosophers. Historian Nicole Howard claims, “Huygens actively cultivated heterogeneous audiences for his published works by tailoring them to particular readers and distributing them in strategic ways” (Howard 60). Like twenty-first century educational science outreach campaigns, Huygens the natural philosopher performed his own kind of outreach through demonstrations of his invention for non-elite audiences and by including in his publications illustrations and assembly instructions that did not the reader to be fluent in Latin (the universal language of natural philosophy across Enlightenment Europe). Today’s general audiences of science media are much like the sea-faring audiences of Huygens’s pendulum clock demonstrations. As our everyday use of technology increases concurrently with a popular awareness of human intra-systemic activity, feminist philosopher of science Sara Giordano’s proposed “critical science literacy” becomes necessary to the project of increasing the quality and depth of conversations about science issues among scientists and non-scientists (100). Giordano’s critical science pedagogy encourages learners to encounter science texts as responsible citizens empowered to “create contextualized knowledges” of the world in ways that incorporate science as a part of a whole culture (101).
The development of a critical science literacy is essential in the information age, when playful educational outreach campaigns with an eye towards cultivating the first generation of space tourists emerge alongside conquest-oriented utterances such as Pence’s address at the Johnson Space Center. When Pence calls to establish “American leadership in Space,” to “keep America ahead of our adversaries,” and to “strengthen American security in Space,” the critically literate Space enthusiast must press beyond the emotional excitement stimulated by outreach programs that situate Mars and other celestial bodies as novel tourist destinations to engage with some of the underlying reasons why these places are exploratory targets in the first place. The critically literate audience to intra-systemic planetary research might resist the protectionist impulse to find an escape route as a solution to environmental disasters and social inequities on Earth. Or, they might voice dissent regarding the militarization of Space and insist that its exploration be performed towards peaceful ends. What do Cassini and Huygens — the men and the machines — mean for life in what visionary feminist philosopher of science Donna Haraway coins the “thick present,” our unique set of damaged given circumstances that include Earth’s geological, political, and creative histories (Chthulucene 1)? How might we meaningfully engage with these legacies — of Conquest and Science — as we co-create an ethic for learning with the cosmos in the broad spectrum of its biological, astrophysical, performatic, and historiographical diversity?
Imagination, Space Law, and the IAU
The reification of celestial bodies for the imaginative pleasure of earthbound audiences authorizes spectators on Earth to envision themselves as extraterritorial settlers of sorts. Of course, the pleasure of traveling to other worlds via the imagination is nothing new, as a centuries-long history of science fiction can attest. The JPL’s “Visions of the Future” educational poster campaign seems to have more at stake, since its target audience is “new generations of innovators and explorers, [for whom] these visions of the future can become a reality” (“Visions”). The JPL posters visually colonize other worlds as objects of inquiry and occupation to foster a curiosity and enthusiasm about future explorations among civilian observers of NASA’s activities. Take, for example, the poster featuring Saturn’s moon Enceladus, first identified by William Herschel (1738-1822) in 1789 and later named by his son, John, after the mythical Titan giant. The Enceladus poster illustrates new facts discovered during the Cassini-Huygens Legacy mission, such as the hydrothermal vents at its South Pole, but these geological details are ensconced within a romantic visual narrative. The silhouettes in the poster are human, yet indistinct, inviting the viewer to imaginatively enter the scene. Enceladus is depicted as so human-friendly that one might even imagine an interplanetary vacation complete with the family dog. Through the choice to borrow tropes from romantic visual art, in which a sublime natural subject only just invites the human viewer into the frame, JPL’s poster designers familiarize their viewing audience with new planetary discoveries while sparking positive emotional responses of wonderment and awe at the prospect of Space colonization.
Pence deploys similarly emotional tactics as he invokes a feeling of nostalgia for the boundlessness of the American Dream to advocate for American supremacy in Space via NASA’s proposed Space Force. The simultaneous evocation of a glorious past and the promise of a future interplanetary civilization mask underlying fears of a shrinking planet caused by competition for limited resources and accelerated climate change. Pence’s strident, benedictory closing remark that, “our destiny, mankind’s destiny, is not only here on Earth, it is in the heavens as well,” linguistically reinforces androcentric notions of what kinds of humans are qualified to engage in Space exploration while inferring that it is part of human nature to inhabit places beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Pence might have taken his cue from one of NASA’s corporate partners, SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who, at the September 2017 International Astronautical Congress, dreamily quipped, “I think fundamentally the future is vastly more exciting and interesting if we’re a space-faring civilization and a multi-planet species than if we’re not.” Musk’s statement retains remnants of the early modern European cosmographical impulse to subject other worlds to the whims of a bored cultural hegemony. It also conveys a romantic desire to voyage to distant locales because they’re there, as evidenced in his more recent statements that compare the establishment of Martian colonies to Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton’s polar expeditions of the early twentieth century (Axios).
When considered within the complementary framework of “conquest scenario” as legacy, contemporary cosmographical thought appears to have cycled back to a functional Ptolemaic geocentrism in which Earth and its inhabitants are situated as central to what the rest of the universe might be capable of providing. This allegory suggests a twenty-first century sociological concern regarding the use of Space for human ends. Space colonization entrepreneurs like Pence and Musk construct pleas to establish and protect national and commercial interests in Space upon the neoliberal premise that knowing other worlds is equivalent to claiming mineral and property rights upon those distant soils. Such arguments also imply the assumed right of the migrant earthling to populate those territories in the first place. Science philosopher Nayef R. F. Al-Rodhan claims that the environment constitutes one of “seven dimensions of meta-geopolitics and state space power” and argues that, “increased awareness of developments in climate change, together with worries about the decline in natural resources such as water, oil and raw materials, has brought the issues of environment, biodiversity and depletion of natural resources to the forefront of geopolitical discussions” (151). Historian Christy Collis outlines the complex political history surrounding the legal use of contested spaces such as interplanetary Space, deep-sea beds, and the Moon. Collis demonstrates precedent for Space laws regarding its use as res communis, territory not subject to any nationality and therefore considered “common space of mankind,” or res humanitas, in which space and its lands are regarded as the “common heritage of mankind,” in which case its use ought to benefit all of humanity (Collis 280). The United Nations “Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies” attempts to preserve the Moon as res humanitas. The resolution, ratified in 1984,
reaffirms and elaborates on many of the provisions of the Outer Space Treaty as applied to the Moon and other celestial bodies, providing that those bodies should be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, that their environments should not be disrupted, that the United Nations should be informed of the location and purpose of any station established on those bodies […] the Agreement provides that the Moon and its natural resources are the common heritage of mankind and that an international regime should be established to govern the exploitation of such resources when such exploitation is about to become feasible (“Moon Treaty”).
The U.S. never signed the treaty.
Many more nations — including the U.S. and other superpower nations — have signed the Outer Space Treaty (1967). This earlier, and more binding, international agreement stipulates, “States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner” (Outer Space Treaty). The Outer Space Treaty, like the Moon Treaty, also makes it clear that, “the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes,” but here is where this treaty and other emergent aspects of Space law require further definition, especially when individual nations’ “security” is called into question in order to justify conquest-oriented utterances. Is resource extraction a peaceful process truly intended for “the benefit and in the interests of all countries… the province of all mankind”? One need only look to the widespread debates, protests, and wars that erupt over extractions and allocations of limited natural resources on Earth to understand that this kind of use is neither entirely peaceful, nor does it always benefit “all mankind.” In a discussion of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act (2015) and Luxembourgian Space mining legislation passed in 2016, Liu Hau and Fabio Tronchetti assert that, “one of the most notable developments in the field of space law has been the adoption of domestic legislation regulating the mining and utilization of space resources” (10). The emergence of practical academic programs such as the Space Resources program at the Colorado School of Mining indicates that resource extraction from celestial bodies is imminent, despite the lack of a universal legal system under which to manage it. The imaginative conquest of Space has immediate consequences that pertain to land use and resource extraction, as is evidenced by articles about Space mining that are beginning to pepper business news outlets. Statements such as, “Our priority for developing the frontier of space should be building a comprehensive and dynamic map of the inner solar system. This should include not only planets and moons but also the millions of resource-rich asteroids,” treat Space mining as a phenomenon of the present, not the future (Remy and Lu).
Domestic Space legislation protects individual, corporate, and national intents regarding the mining of celestial resources. Twenty-first century cosmographers such as the WGPSN are therefore in danger of enacting an embodied repertoire that extends Earth’s legacies of conquest deep into solar system. Performative acts of nomenclature assignment that subtly endorse certain nations’ self-declamatory rights to name a disproportionate percentage of extraterritorial topographies may have lasting effects on the Earth-national futures of celestial bodies. This is of particular concern when the states making those claims also have established surrogate physical presences on celestial bodies in the forms of flags, probes, rovers, landers, and other scientific and extraction equipment.
The IAU possesses immense potential to hew human imagination, “as a social practice,” towards Space conquest, or, to devise novel modes of being- (and performing-) with other worlds (Appadurai 31). In the WGPSN’s planetary nomenclature guidelines, Rule #7 stipulates that “solar system nomenclature should be international in its choice of names,” and, “where appropriate, the WGPSN strongly supports an equitable selection of names from ethnic groups, countries, and gender on each map” (“Gazetteer”). However, the same rule also contains a clause allowing, “a higher percentage of names from the country planning a landing […] on landing site maps” (“Gazetteer”). By this logic, if a nation proclaims itself to be a future colonizer of Mars, the Moon, or other planetary bodies in our solar system, the WGPSN will augment that imagination by assigning the right to name more of that extraterritorial topography to the nation uttering the colonizing statement than would otherwise be condoned. An example of such an utterance pertaining explicitly to American colonization of Space is U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s Space Policy Directive 1 (SPD 1), signed in December, 2017: “The NASA Administrator shall ‘Lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities. Beginning with missions beyond low-Earth orbit, the United States will lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations’” (U.S. Department of Homeland Security 1). The twenty-first century’s highly mediatized and widely mediated images of extra-terrae, pictures of Earth delegations to these places, and the names assigned to these “new” lands perform a conquest-oriented social imagination similar to that which was necessary for the justification of historic geo-political land grabs on Earth. Utterance and image combine to continue a legacy of conquest that is supported by the WGPSN’s cosmographical taxonomy. The loophole in Rule #7, when considered in light of emerging Space militarization proposals and mining prospects aimed to benefit specific nations’ economies, makes the naming process a less politically neutral endeavor than the IAU might like it to be. Although one could argue that astronomy has become a more internationally collaborative and inclusive practice now (thanks, in large part, to the efforts of wide-reaching institutions such as the IAU), there remain inconsistencies when it comes to living up to its multicultural and humanitarian aims.
Hidden Taxonomies: The WGPSN and Planetary Nomenclature
The Gazette builds upon the work of generations of planetary scientists, its data expanding with every new extraterritorial topographical discovery of interest. It is a mutable, digital, Internet taxonomy, a “live” organizational system updated assiduously by members of the WGPSN to reflect up-to-the-minute discoveries and decisions made through the multi-modal project of planetary research. In the Gazette, each planetary body upon which scientifically interesting features (craters, mountains, faculae, etc.) have been observed is taxonomized as a spreadsheet. The data contained in the Gazette’s comparatively old-fashioned collection of spreadsheets has already been subjected to a significant amount of transduction via computer helps and human hands. The democratic beauty of the downloadable spreadsheet format is that it leaves room for the transduced data to be applied to an array of multi-disciplinary projects.
Thousands of topographic features of dozens of planetary bodies populate as many spreadsheets that outline physical and material properties of each named feature, names assigned, and cultural aspects of each name for every planetary body in the solar system. These names, along with the cultural data also included on the spreadsheet, reveal the residue of Euro-American colonial praxes that continues to influence Space exploration. The spreadsheet is a faceted taxonomy, which means that its organizational components are “assigned independently […] but can relate to one another in myriad ways” (Bay-Cheng et al. 35). Although the spreadsheets are presented on the website in such a way that the scientific relationships are immediately apparent, the facets may also be arranged so that arts and humanities narratives are just as identifiable. A taxonomical analysis of the Gazette exposes the “ideological and historical context of its own classifications,” that is rooted in legacies of andro- and Eurocentric modes of scientific praxis, and therefore presents an opportunity for intervention (Bay-Cheng et al. 36). Citing primate taxonomist Colin Groves, Bay-Cheng et al. offer that taxonomies must change if their scientific classifications are to remain relevant. A shift in emphasis from facets that contain information about mapping coordinates of topographical features to those that index cultural origins for the sources of the same features’ names indicates not that the classification system is flawed but that the classification system works well to expose cultural oversights in the process of nomenclature assignment itself.
Nevertheless, the IAU’s planetary nomenclature remains irregular in its Earth-cultural representation in Space. This may be the result of the inherent bias embedded in relatively homogeneous group of IAU members who serve on the WGPSN. The core WGPSN consists of ten representative scientists from seven Earth polities: Germany (one representative), Norway (one), Russia (one), Vatican City State (one), United Kingdom (one), France (one), and the United States (four). Women constitute twenty percent of the WGPSN participants and men eighty percent. All of the countries represented in the WGPSN are from the Northern hemisphere, although individual delegates’ racial and ethnic identifications are not immediately evident. Russia is the only nation on the list that currently launches humans into space using its own facilities, from its own soil, although certainly scientists from most representative countries are space-faring and routinely send scientists into Space. In the pursuit of achieving a “strong objectivity” for astronomy and its related disciplines, it is necessary to remember how this taxonomy is produced, and by whom.
On the spreadsheets, each feature’s name is accompanied by categories of information pertaining to its physical location, size, and Earth-cultural “Origin.”
The dropdown menu for any given planetary body reveals even more data. The additional classificatory categories provide greater detail about the scientific nature of each topographical feature, including the latitude and longitude of its boundaries and the “feature type.” These additional categories also indicate the Earth “Continent” and “Ethnicity” associated with each name, along with a “Reference” number that corresponds to the cultural source for that name. The “Sources of Planetary Names” document is also included in the Gazette, and on it are the names of hundreds of works of scientific, historic, or fictional literature approved by the IAU as appropriate sources for naming extraterritorial topographies. A few sources appear to derive from a less codified nomenclature process; the “Sources” document includes items such as #61: “List of radar scientists provided by G.H. Pettengill,” #62: “List of names for Mars in various languages provided by Carl Sagan,” and #46: “List of famous women provided by the National Organization for Women.” It is within the Reference-Origin-Ethnicity-Continent cycle where this cosmographical taxonomy works best to identify areas of the WGPSN’s cultural oversights, and therefore provides a map for areas of improvement.
Take, for example, the crater “Aladdin” on Enceladus. The Enceladan crater takes its name from the protagonist of the story, “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp,” a piece of information referenced in the “Origin” column with the text, “Hero of the tale; he has the magic lamp.” In fact, all named features on Enceladus are conventionally named after “people and places from [Richard F.] Burton’s Arabian Nights” (“Gazetteer,” italics added). Within the WGPSN taxonomy, it is not unusual for the features of an entire moon or small planetary body to be named after a single text; several other moons in Saturn’s orbit follow this pattern — Tethys’s topography is named after Homer’s Odyssey, Dione’s for Virgil’s Aeneid. Larger bodies with more scientifically interesting, and therefore named, features appear to warrant multiple naming sources. Titan, which boasts 269 named features to Enceladus’ eighty-six, is associated with forty-four Earth-cultural sources (as opposed to Enceladus’ one) that include works by J.R.R. Tolkein, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert.
Aladdin provides a particularly apt example of the ways that the WGPSN’s nomenclature taxonomy increases physical accuracy and understanding of the material properties of extraterritorial topographies while keeping Earth-cultural associations fuzzy at best, orientalist and assimilative at worst. The IAU-approved source, Reference #52, is Richard Francis Burton’s annotated translation, Alf Laylah, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, not any of the editions of the Scheherazade tales compiled before Burton’s Larson-Harper 1900 edition. The earliest collection of these stories can be traced to a tenth century Syrian collection, based on oral storytelling traditions that had existed long before that. Enceladan topography is named after a literary work that did much to orientalize the oil-rich nations of the Middle East during the late nineteenth century, a period of accelerated British expansion. Comparative literature scholar Colette Colligan argues that Burton’s edition, “emphasized its Arab origin and sexual content… His translation violently disrupted the [earlier] English cultural presentation of the Arabian Nights — to such an extent that it was branded ‘pornographic’” (33). Burton’s translation furthered the British imperial project of othering the nations and peoples of the Middle East to justify Great Britain’s physical, political, and military presence in these countries, renaming topographies and redistributing territories as they went. In the early twenty-first century, when dreams of colonizing and mining celestial bodies in Space are close to becoming reality, the choice to continue the tradition of naming an entire planetary body after Burton’s Orientalizing tome demands critique. Does this “Asian-Arabian” classification serve the IAU’s purpose of “internationalizing” topographical name patterns within the solar system, or is Enceladus’ nomenclature an example of an unexamined cosmographical legacy of othering lands that are the target of resource speculation, colonization, and imperial domination?
An equally perplexing and contiguous question is, why is all of the “Continent” data for Enceladus entered into the Gazette as “Asia,” and all but one of the “Ethnicity” data points are described as “Arabian,” an outdated term now used only in rare traditional circumstances, such as the title of Arabian Nights, “Arabian horses,” and the Arabian continental plate (Brians). This information is confusing if one is reading it according to the IAU’s attempts to be culturally representative per its rule that there should be an equitable selection of names “from ethnic groups, countries, and gender on each map” (“Gazetteer”). Even on other planetary bodies that are named after a single text, such as the Uranian satellite Miranda for which the topography is entirely derived from Shakespearean characters and places, those characters and places retain a certain (also frequently inaccurate) diversity in “ethnicity,” which reflects the naming cosmographers’ understanding of the source text, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The IAU often misaligns ethnicity with nationality, and the conflation of nationality, language, and ethnicity is endemic across the IAU database. On Miranda, the IAU has identified the “ethnicities” of “Great Britain,” “France,” “Denmark,” “Turkey,” “Scotland,” and “Italy,” all of which are nations, not ethnicities. The Martian topography, for example, includes names that are classified as ethnically “American” (a nationality), “Latin” (a language), and “Tajik” (an ethnicity). These kinds of inaccurate cultural designations are problematic especially when extraterritorial topographies are named after ethnically diasporic and indigenous populations already fractured by settler colonialism as it has historically been practiced on Earth.
Perhaps the cosmographical problem of “internationalizing” the solar system’s nomenclature rests in the colonial construction of Earth’s commonly accepted geographical taxonomy, which manifests in odd configurations in the Gazette. “Asia” is one of the seven “Continent” categories assigned in the spreadsheet; while not a surprising classification (“Asia” is physically part of the Eurasian supercontinent), the colonial construction of “Asia” as a continent defined by European perceptions of Asian cultures remains in the IAU taxonomy, thereby perpetuating assertions of a false separateness of countries designated “European” or “Asian” and a discordant unification in its references to countries established under previous colonial rule. On the other hand, the Australian continent is replaced by the designation of “Oceania,” which extends geographic boundaries to also include the microcontinent Zealandia and the island regions Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia (National Geographic, “Australia and Oceania: Physical Geography” n.p.). One strange IAU continental distinction is the “South and Central America” category, which seems to combine South America and Central America as a single continent. The North American continent encompasses landmasses resting on the North American plate as well as areas on the Juan de Fuca, Pacific, Cocos, and Caribbean Plates (National Geographic, “Continent” n.p.). The North American continent includes Central American nations. The WGPSN’s weird “Central and South American” classification only serves to further erase indigenous ethnic identities from geo-cultural North American narratives dominated by what sociologist Hōkūani K. Aikau pegs as a reliance upon “heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, [and] capitalism” (659). In short, the WGPSN’s taxonomy, in its inconsistent categorizing choices, affects the ways in which Earth cultures are represented in Space, and, through habitual cultural oversights carried over from one generation of cosmographers to the next, advances conquest-oriented agendas on Earth.
Political Space: Visualizing Earth’s Conquest of the Solar System
Cosmic sociologists Peter Dickens and James S. Ormrod have observed that, “the cosmos is being used as a way of extending economic empires on Earth and monitoring those individuals who are excluded from this mission” (617). In the previous section, I outlined the inherent bias of the WGPSN’s taxonomic system. Here, I apply WGPSN data to visualizations that illustrate the potential that planetary nomenclature praxes hold to impact the capacity of different people on Earth to imagine themselves familiar with planetary bodies across the solar system, in spite of the proliferation of campaigns to recruit increasingly diverse cohorts of scientists to the profession of astronomy. Data visualization makes the colonizing “trends and patterns” that are obscured by the spreadsheet’s faceted taxonomy become “suddenly apparent” (Caplan 349). These visualizations use linguistic and statistical data to demonstrate the stakes of naming celestial bodies. The performatics of the visualizations are found in the relationships among the language choices made by WGPSN cosmographers to describe noteworthy celestial bodies, the shape and arrangement of the words in the organizational container, and the guidelines for naming expressed by the WGPSN. The Gazette’s data takes on new meaning when arranged within an organizational vessel other than a spreadsheet.
Names suggest character, and character implies a complexity of context that can remain hidden by a strict adherence to a numerical taxonomy such as that of the “Reference” designation on the Gazette spreadsheet. I have extracted data contained within the Gazette spreadsheet and used it to create “world clouds,” a term I playfully offer to describe word clouds that represent “other worlds” within our solar system. Data in the world clouds perform astronomy and cosmography as “deeply integrated with their particular social and historical contexts” (Harding, Objectivity 2). The WGPSN spreadsheet organization causes all data to appear to hold equal weight; frequency of data is not readily apparent without an understanding of how to perform functions of Microsoft Excel or other spreadsheet software systems. Words represented in word clouds increase or decrease in size depending on their frequency within a data set. Rendering the Gazette’s data as a world cloud performs the spreadsheet’s data in a manner that is quantitative (the number of times a word appears in a data set) and qualitative (the significance of these words to the taxonomic system).
I have created the following world clouds for the Uranian moons Ariel and Umbriel according to lexical data in their “Origin” columns:
This arrangement of data is not comprehensive, nor does it lead to new, objective truths, but it does imply that the IAU’s taxonomy is not always as strongly objective as it might like to be. According to the “Categories for Naming” guidelines, topographical features on Ariel should be named for “light spirits” and Umbriel for “dark spirits” (“Gazetteer”). When descriptive “Origin” data are transduced into the world cloud format, the moons share their dominant “spirit” quality, but each takes on a distinct character. Umbriel is characterized as originally evil, troll-like, sometimes appearing in disguise, guarded, or invisible, and associated with the devil and an assortment of Eastern- or non-European cultural indicators. Ariel, on the other hand, named not for Shakespeare’s spirit but for Pope’s sylph, generates an “Origins” world cloud that appears “good,” “British,” and perhaps capable of “benevolent” actions. Non-European descriptors do appear in the “Origin” world cloud for Ariel, just as Northern European references are included within Umbriel’s, but they do so with uneven frequency.
Does characterizing one moon as “evil” and one as “good” embed a subtle predisposition in the imaginations of planetary scientists who might someday study it? Ariel has almost twice as many named features as Umbriel; while it could be that Ariel’s topographical features are more scientifically interesting than Umbriel’s, could this moon not also, on an implicit level of social cognition, be more appealing for scientific study because of its “good” cosmographical characterization? As Gallagher proposes, there is a social aspect to cognition that is often deeply embedded in large social institutions like the IAU and therefore often goes unnoticed in everyday activities. Do qualitative characterizations of planetary objects such as “evil” Umbriel, on some level, dissuade “Aboriginal,” “Polynesian,” or “Persian” astronomers from wanting to study it in particular or astronomy in general? Might the habit of transcribing negative cultural associations onto celestial bodies advertise an internal white, Northern, male culture of astronomy that inherently keeps non-white, non-Northern European, non-male astronomers on the outside? Prejudiced cultural and ethnic associations made by present and past astronomers contribute to a legacy of planetary science that may damage the potential for the field of astronomy to achieve equity and opportunity for all peoples and cultures on Earth to participate in the intra-planetary enterprise of naming and knowing the universe. Without implementing measures to ensure a body of cosmographers that is truly diverse (rather than nominally international), Harding’s proposed “strong objectivity” remains unachievable.
Strong Objectivity: Towards a Feminist and De-Colonial Performance of Science
Without organizations like the IAU taking more effective steps towards diversification of participation, today’s astronomy community runs the risk of orientalizing potentially habitable planetary bodies in such a way that lays the foundations for Earth’s hierarchical power structures to be replicated in Space. Such a legacy holds the potential to exacerbate already inequitable distribution of finite resources such as water, oil, and other minerals. The conquest of Space in the pattern established by Columbus and his early modern cohort of cosmographers imprints Earth culture onto other planets and clouds a truly objective vision of these distant places.
Harding describes the intertwined histories of European geographical conquest, development policy, and scientific experiment as, “first and last, for maintaining Europeans and their colonial enterprises in those and other parts of the world” (Multicultural 44). The ways that celestial bodies are performed through media such as the Gazette effect how humans might imagine themselves in relationship with other worlds which otherwise have existed, until the twentieth century, as res humanitas, independent of human enterprise yet part of the narrative of all humanity. Contemporary philosophers of science have proposed ethical pathways towards improving equitable practices for contemporary cosmography and, by extension, other fields stifled by the Eurocentrism and androcentrism inherent to the scientific method. Some representatives of indigenous communities posit that named planetary bodies are colonized bodies and advocate for restraint from naming extraterritorial topographies (Thomason). Harding’s “strong objectivity” proposal for the sciences goes beyond representation and underscores the need for truly inclusive praxis. “At issue,” she claims, “is […] the question of whose agendas science does and should pursue […] how does participation in such decision making, especially in public discussions, change both the participants and the styles of decision making?” (Objectivity xi). I suggest that performance studies might place a disciplinarily diverse pressure on the sciences to achieve “strong objectivity.”
The science-allegorical romance between Cassini-Huygens and Titan emotionally engaged twenty-first century consumers of science news. So do the names chosen by the WGPSN hold the potential to create a relationship between humans and celestial objects that does not extend legacies of conquest further into the future and farther into Space. To interrupt the process of colonization, there must be a change in representation and in active participation of diverse players in science-authoritative organizations such as the IAU. Giordano suggests that the path towards diversifying participation in the sciences might be found in fostering a “critical science literacy” among scientists and non-scientists alike. If all learners are empowered to think critically about science, not only might fields like astronomy embrace a more diverse cohort of experts, but non-scientists may come to care enough about science issues to act upon and advocate about those issues in cultural realms such as the arts and public policy. By intentionally articulating an anti-colonial and feminist positionality we might work towards an intervention into and improvement upon our still-conquest-oriented cosmographical legacy.
Disciplinary diversity in the enactment of science matters, too. Performance studies — neither science, nor history, but also not strictly theatre — might be combined with a positional science critique to achieve a strong cosmographical objectivity. A WGPSN with international, mixed gender, multi-ethnic, and interdisciplinary delegates is just one way that a large science organization might refine its scientific praxis to realize the inclusivity and diversity it purports to desire. De-colonial strategies are boundless for the shaping of future explorations of the solar system (and beyond) in such ways that might conscientiously refuse the legacies of conquest-oriented scientific practice in favor of praxes that honor celestial bodies as res humanitas. These are the stakes. Cultural errors and oversights reveal an institutional disregard for people who identify with those cultures that are consistently excluded from fully participating in the creative process of scientific exploration, and thereby perpetuate the “institutional Eurocentrism” endemic to modern science practice (Multicultural 13). If we are to continue with the search for life on other planets, then we must devise the end of the Age of Conquest. Despite cultural habits that point to the contrary, astronomy and its affiliated cosmographical praxes are not fixed and unchangeable; the borders of science, as a cultural domain, are as porous as the earth’s atmosphere, and as permeable as the foundation of my house, and therefore available to processes of intervention and improvement. The Cassini-Huygens legacy invites an imaginative comparison as interplanetary mediator that is produced by and that continues to produce colonial empires. Fed to Saturn, eater of children, Cassini is a surrogate technological sacrifice in service of humanity’s ultimate survival. But the legacy of ideas that Cassini-Huygens mediates has to do with the humanitarian work yet to be done before Earth can ethically encounter other worlds. Could a solution begin with the simple suggestion that the WGPSN of the IAU and its subsidiary task groups be composed of delegates representing a truly diverse range of geographic places of origin, ethnicities, genders, races, and disciplines? Might creative and cultural thinkers collaborate with scientists in the creation of the interplanetary policy that nomenclature decisions will surely make possible? If we acknowledge the conquest-oriented implications of contemporary cosmography, then a delegation comprised of professionals hailing from many more cultural disciplines in addition to the sciences must come to be involved in determining the performatics of Earth’s future engagement with distant reaches of the solar system. Positional performances of astronomy have the potential to radically alter our understanding of our solar system and thereby impact how we move with those advancements inexorably into the future.
Vivian Appler wishes to thank Jack Wolfe, of the College of Charleston, for helping her figure out how to make word clouds for this research. They are currently collaborating on a performance installation about digital visualization and planetary nomenclature.
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A total of seventeen countries aided in the construction of the Cassini-Huygens (www.esa.int).
 Throughout this article, I will use the term “Space” to designate outer space.
 “Diana Taylor’s use of performatics is also rooted in a desire to transcend geo-political borders. Taylor suggests the term ‘performatic’ rather than ‘performative’ when critiquing embodied performance, ‘to denote the adjectival form of the nondiscursive realm of performance… because it is vital to signal the performatic, digital, and visual fields as separate from, though always embroiled with, the discursive one so privileged by Western logocentrism.’… I extend Taylor’s term from its original ‘Americas’ context and apply it to the analysis of performances that deliberately blend technics, politics, and informatics in order to disrupt liberal disciplinary boundaries” (Appler, “Moonwalking”). My use of this term implies a resonance with Haraway’s “informatics of domination,” a critical view of how technology works in society (Simians 161).
 Intercultural performance studies scholar Rustom Bharucha proposes an intracultural approach to performance studies, by which “cultures within, between, and across regions can be translated, transported, and exchanged within the larger framework of the nation” (118). Here, I extend the conceptual parameters of cultural cognition to encompass objects distributed across our entire solar system in order to address the intra-culture that humans, as would-be conquerors of planetary bodies other than Earth, might become as an interplanetary civilization. I use the phrase “intra-systemic” to refer to phenomena that pertain to human actions that occur within the set of planetary bodies of our solar system. For more on the cultural aspects of stellar and galactic nomenclature, see Cervera.
 The IAU is international with multiple sources of funding, collaboration, and support that include the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, the South African National Research Foundation, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The WGPSN itself resulted from a 1907 meeting of the Council of the International Association of Academies to organize lunar nomenclature which by that point had become a confusing assortment of names for the same extraterritorial objects used by different countries. The WGPSN was officially established in 1919 at a meeting in Brussels with the original task to “regularize the chaotic lunar and Martian nomenclatures then current” (“Gazetteer”).
 Although the term “taxonomy” is perhaps most commonly associated with biology, it also applies to classifications in other disciplines such as astronomy.
 I use the term “extraterritorial” to designate territories outside the boundaries of Earth’s atmosphere, after the “Disclaimer of Extraterritorial Sovereignty,” stipulated in the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act.
 Within a discussion of the cultural use of space, science-oriented performance scholar Felipe Cervera identifies the political potential that the practice of stellar identification and classification harbors to enact or resist imaginations of intra-cultural identity, “the practice of naming parts of the universe underscores many of the processes through which cultures and civilizations establish systems of internal social order, trace their own urban and architectonic histories, embark upon exploration of the surroundings, designate their gods and where these gods inhabit” (“Cosmos” 28).
 For more on the Enlightenment Cassini-Huygens rivalry, see Albert Van Helden’s Huygen’s Ring, Cassini’s Division, and Saturn’s Children.
 Data collected during the Cassini-Huygens mission is producing interesting results. Recently, “observations of emitted ice grains containing concentrated and complex macromolecular organic material with molecular masses above 200 atomic mass units,” have been made of data coming from the Cassin-Huygens study of Enceladus (Postberg et al. 564). Organic compounds further hypotheses that Enceladus’ subsurface ocean may be suitable for conditions that could generate and sustain life (Bauer et al.).
 Giordano borrows the term from Matthew Weinsten and incorporates Karan Barad’s pedagogy, “agential literacy… a way to teach scientific knowledge production in such a way as not to flatten the idea of ‘nature’ or ‘culture’ and instead strive to teach students skills to become responsible actors in our world.” (Giordano 103)
 Part of the InSight educational outreach program involved the registration of 2,429,807 names embedded on a computer chip and sent with the lander to Mars. NASA’s “frequent flyer” program also included a similar roster that was uploaded to the Orion spacecraft in 2014 for its test flight (Matthewson).
 Cassini flew by Enceladus twenty-three times in two decades. Cassini orbited Saturn 294 times. In the course of those orbits, Cassini flew by Titan 127 times, Rhea four times, Dione five times, and it passed Phoebe, Lapetus, Helene, Tethys, Hyperion, and Epimetheus once each (“Cassini Mission Overview”).
 SpaceX and Boeing both hold multi-billion-dollar contracts with NASA to fly crewed missions to the International Space Station as early as the summer of 2019. Both companies will undergo safety reviews in early 2019 (Davenport).
 Signatory states are France, Guatemala, India, Peru, and Romania. In addition, ten “member states” include Australia, Austria, Chile, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, and Uruguay (NTI).
 There are 107 nation-states party to the Outer Space Treaty, 89 of which are signatory states (UNODA).
 Other Space treaties in place include the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects, the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space, and the Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (Anderson et al. 15-16).
 Russia also has laws on the books that could be applied to resource extraction in Space, as does the United Arab Emirates (Anderson et al. 22-23). Japan is also developing domestic policy that would apply to its Space mining prospects, already underway through the ispace Inc (Hao & Tronchetti 12).
 Some scholars contend that extraction began with the first geological samples sent to Earth from early lunar missions. The Colorado program “focuses on learning the core knowledge in this field and developing design practices in the identification, extraction, processing, and responsible use of available resources in the Solar System” (space.mines.edu).
 Title IV of the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act “promote[s] the right of [US] citizens to engage in commercial exploration for and commercial recovery of space resources free from harmful interference, in accordance with the international obligations of the [US] and subject to authorization and continuing supervision by the Federal Government,” where “space resource” refers to “an abiotic resource in situ in outer space” including “water and minerals” (Competitiveness). The law stipulates that US citizens may own these resources, but not any celestial body itself.
 Trump’s Space Policy Directive 1 is an amended version of President Barack Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive-4 of the National Space Policy of the United States of America (U.S. Department of Homeland Security 1).
 Debra Caplan refers to the “liveness” of “born-digital scholarship, which, like theatrical productions, requires live interactions with audiences and often changes with each human-computer encounter” (Caplan 349).
 I am not referring to the kinds of massive data sets involved in astroinformatics, in which streams of data collected by remote sensory devices must constantly be organized into information that is useful to human analysis.
 China is one of the most active space faring nations of today, and their interest in the Moon in particular is discussed in other articles. See Hao and Tranchetti as well as Cervera, “Astroaesthetics.” The US and other countries rely on purchased seats on Russia’s Soyuz space capsule to send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), but this collaborative practice will come to an end in 2019 when the US will shift the transportation of its crew to commercial rockets owned by Boeing and SpaceX (Smith). China routinely launches crewed rockets into Space. It is represented in the Task Group for Lunar Nomenclature and the Task Group for Small Bodies Nomenclature, but it is not represented in the WGPSN core membership.
 Names for Titan’s topographical features also derive from multicultural myth, legend, history, geography, and history of science.
 The Enceladan feature Samaria Rupes is taxonomized “Persian” in the Gazette.
 One flaw of the two-dimensional word cloud is that it only maps two kinds of information: word and frequency. The spreadsheet is a far superior taxonomical tool in terms of the diversity of data that can be viewed in the same document.