History MA/MA(SocSci)

From the Space Race to Star Wars: US Conflict and Cooperation in Orbit, 1945-1999 HIST4278

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

This course explores the contest between different historic visions of American Space Policy and their global impacts, including: The Moon landings as peaceful exploration and superpower rivalry; Space Junk and Environmental History; Gender and Race in Space; Diplomacy and the International Space Station; and Popular Culture responses to Space, such as the Star Wars movies. Questions underpinning the course include: Why and how did military and civil actors influence US approaches to Space? What have been the physical and psychological effects of American Spaceflight globally? Students will be able to draw on sources ranging from declassified documents and films to interactive computer simulations, examining the origins of Space Policies which continue to shape the 21st Century.


10 x 1-hour interactive lectures and 10 x 1-hour workshop/seminars over ten weeks as scheduled in MyCampus. This is one of the Honours options in History and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Excluded Courses





Essay (2,500 words) - 50% (Questions based on course lectures.)

Guided Research Project (2,500 words) - 50% (Seminar discussion will be used to inform design of a case study - students individually choosing, planning, and analysing primary sources, based on a historic example and their own independent research, such as a real or proposed historic space mission or policy.)

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non-Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course aims to:


■ Evaluate the significance of events and debates in US space exploration, from the early Space Age to the end of the 20th Century, and their importance in shaping the global impact of the United States of America on space.


■ Act as professional historians by analysing publicly-available/recently declassified written and audio-visual primary sources, through independent work and small-group discussions, showing the acquisition of certain transferable skills.


■ Gain experience of methods of assessing the multifaceted sociocultural, economic and military impact of new technologies on societies.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


■ Identify and discuss in a critical manner, through class discussion and a written essay assignment, key events and debates which characterised US advancements in spaceflight for civilian and military use, from the early Space Age to the end of the 20th Century.


■ Evaluate, through an independent research project, sociocultural and/or political impacts of the historic US development and uses of space technology, domestically and/or globally.


■ Evaluate critically primary sources and/or secondary readings (including learning the preparation/design process for an independent research project through guided class/small seminar group discussion).

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.