Monuments, Memorials, and Spacecraft: A Test-Case in the Treatment of a Spacecraft as a Semiotic Artifact

Edward H. Sisson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

December 22, 2008

All civilian, government-sponsored spacecraft, despite ostensibly having the primary purpose of scientific data-collection, are, within the advanced cultures that produce them, primarily symbolic objects, created by the people as a means of indicating, both to themselves and to all the world, what is in their hearts: what they value. These craft are a statement that we value learning, exploration, adventure, difficult endeavors, teamwork, precision, self-discipline, and intelligence. All such spacecraft are, fundamentally, semiotic objects. The fact that they collect data, although proffered as their primary function, is in fact secondary.

In this paper I propose a thought - experiment, involving consideration of a spacecraft expressly intended for a symbolic, semiotic, psychological purpose: a kind of interstellar library, a Noah's Ark of Documents, the "Milky Way Messenger." By taking an idea that was originally merely a concept to be featured in a science-fiction story and exploring whether it might be feasible to accomplish it in the real world, the paper is intended to trigger thought and discussion concerning the conscious creation of such objects. The paper concludes with suggestions concerning the semiotic psychological function of certain government programs.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 14

Keywords: semiotics, symbolism, spacecraft, libraries

JEL Classification: O31, O34

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Date posted: December 24, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Sisson, Edward H., Monuments, Memorials, and Spacecraft: A Test-Case in the Treatment of a Spacecraft as a Semiotic Artifact (December 22, 2008). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1319376 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1319376

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