Space Craze: A Preview of a Cultural History Based on Artifacts

Join Dr. Margaret Weitekamp, Chair of the Department of Space History at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, as she previews her forthcoming book, Space Craze: America’s Enduring Fascination with Real and Imagined Spaceflight (Smithsonian Books, release date October 11, 2022). Written based on Weitekamp’s experience working with the Museum’s collections of spaceflight memorabilia and space science fiction objects, Space Craze surveys the long history of spaceflight, from the formative stories told by Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, to the historic flights of John Glenn and the Apollo astronauts, through the Space Shuttle era to the present. How does material culture – things such as toys, pins, buttons, mugs, and mission patches – illuminate the story of spaceflight as a particularly American endeavor?

Dr. Margaret A. Weitekamp serves as chair for the Space History Department at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, and curates the Museum’s social and cultural history of spaceflight collection, more than 5,000 artifacts that include both space memorabilia and space science fiction objects. These everyday mementos of the space age—which include toys and games, medals and awards, buttons and pins, as well as comics and trading cards—complete the story about spaceflight told by the Museum’s collection of space hardware and technologies.Her book, Space Craze: America’s Enduring Fascination with Real and Imagined Spaceflight (2022) is based on that work.

With Matthew Shindell, she revised and expanded Spaceships: An Illustrated History of the Real and Imagined (2022). She is the author of numerous scholarly articles as well as Right Stuff, Wrong Sex: America’s First Women in Space Program, which won the Eugene M. Emme Award for Astronautical Literature from the American Astronautical Society. In addition, she wrote an award-winning children’s picture book Pluto’s Secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery (2013), in collaboration with David DeVorkin, with illustrations by Diane Kidd. 

Weitekamp earned a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and an MA and PhD in history from Cornell University. During her graduate work, she was a Mellon fellow in the humanities and spent a year in residence at the NASA Headquarters History Office in Washington, D.C. as the American Historical Association / NASA Aerospace History Fellow. Before joining the Smithsonian, Weitekamp taught in the Women’s Studies Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York.

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