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• The impact of human activity on the global-scale climatological and ecological systems. Satellites and airborne instruments have detected an ominously growing hole in the Antarctic stratospheric ozone shield. Air and spacecraft platforms monitor spreading desertification, oceanic pollution, deforestation, massive soil erosion, and the increase in carbon dioxide and other atmospheric greenhouse gases. The global impact of such phenomena will almost certainly be among the most serious concerns of the human species by the year 2000. It is important that they be more widely understood now.

• Our place in the universe. Given the astonishing technical advances in the 20th Century, it is no longer a matter of science fiction to look ahead and seriously examine the ultimate limitations likely to be imposed by human physiology and astrophysics to long duration interplanetary and even interstellar voyages. At a time when NASA is planning an ambitious program to search for intelligent radio signals from space, it is appropriate to ask how we might learn whether our global civilization is unique or one among many in the universe.

If such topics are to be properly treated, the Museum will have to adopt an institution-wide approach, involving scholarly research and the use of clearly understandable evidence, in the form of restored artifacts, illustrative models, computer-aided simulations, and works of art that convey thoughts we cannot otherwise express. A Museum Extension is needed to provide the space in which to explore these ideas thoroughly.

Please note that the language and terminology used in this collection reflects the context and culture of the time of its creation, and may include culturally sensitive information. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution, but is available in its original form to facilitate research. For questions or comments regarding sensitive content, access, and use related to this collection, please contact