This article is part of a special issue in Environmental Humanities titled “Familiarizing the Extraterrestrial/Making Our Planet Alien.” The issue brings together anthropologists, historians, and scientists on the topic of why outer space matters, humanistically. Having studied this topic for a decade, it’s gratifying that there are now enough people working on these ideas to warrant a special issue. in her article, Lisa Messeri considers the gesture of pointing – why is it significant for scientists to imagine a future time when they can point to a star and know it has a planet like our own. Pointing is a mode of connection, but it is also a projection of where we want to go and what assumptions we might bring with us. As she writes in the abstract, this gesture of cosmic relation captures how “terrestrial entanglements spread through the galaxy, simultaneously decentering Earth as uniquely meaningful and holding up our planet as the ultimate destination. Outer space, far from being removed from Earthly matters, offers a different scale and perspective for examining technocultural relations.
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