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One giant leap into the cultural heritage of Space, an interdisciplinary approach

In observance of the 40th anniversary of the Lunar Landing of Apollo 11, a space mission in which humans set foot on the moon, researchers at New Mexico State University and nationwide are taking this opportunity to examine our footprint in the space age through a publication to be released today.

Beth O'Leary, an assistant college professor of anthropology at NMSU co-edited "The Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage."

Beth O'Leary, assistant college professor of anthropology at New Mexico State University is a co-editor contributing her research on space archaeology to the book, "The Handbook of Space Engineering, Archaeology and Heritage" available for purchase at most bookstores and online Monday, June 22. Other contributors from NMSU include Edward Staski, professor of anthropology and Roger Gerke, who recently achieved his Master's in Anthropology in May 2009.

The book was co-edited by O'Leary and Ann Garrison Darrin of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. O'Leary teamed with Darrin who is an expert in Aerospace Engineering and Materials Science, to create a comprehensive guide to the material culture, technological history of Space.

The book explores how archaeologists and engineers document and evaluate artifacts in space as part of human extraterrestrial exploration. It examines the work of leading engineers, physicists, anthropologists and historians and targets an audience of researchers, scientists and mission planners at NASA and other national space agencies and research labs in addition to engineers and researchers at aerospace industries.

With more than 27 thousand tons of material launched into space, O'Leary says the trail of human presence on the moon still exists, and she understands the significance of the artifacts placed there. "What some call 'space junk' represents the history of the space age," she said. "The oldest artifacts are just now celebrating their 50th birthday."

O'Leary, has taught anthropology at NMSU since 1991 and is the vice chairperson of the Cultural Properties Review Committee, a governor-appointed policymaking board on historic preservation in New Mexico. She received a grant from the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium in 1999 to document the archaeological assemblage at the Apollo 11 lunar landing site and to investigate ways to manage and preserve it for the future. Her Lunar Legacy project, done in collaboration with NMSU Public History Director, Jon Hunner, was launched with a grant from the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium as an investigation of the first lunar landing site as an archaeological site and the steps needed to preserve it for future generations.

Working with 43 authors from around the world, O'Leary and Darrin, provide the reader with a strong interdisciplinary approach grounded in the sciences. Staski, one of the chapter authors, is also from NMSU's Anthropology Department and provides the basic definition of space archaeology. The premise is simple but unique - there is an archaeological history of outer space and other celestial bodies that documents humankind's reach into space.

Gathering insights from a number of leading thinkers, this book discusses topics that include the cultural landscape of space, spacecraft development and forensics, field techniques, our environmental footprint, and the evaluation of an archaeological record in space. This ambitious book presents an informative, thought-provoking, and educational text that includes the evolution of space engineering, spacecraft reliability, and forensics, field techniques, mission planning, and space programs for the future. Highly authoritative, it is an exciting journey into the final frontier

A more complete look at the book and its contents can be found on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Handbook-Engineering-Archaeology-Heritage-Advances/dp/1420084313/ref