In the early 1960s, the nascent scientific field known today as Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) was gaining momentum. The willingness of historical actors to communicate across the Iron Curtain peaked with the actions taken to hold an international symposium in Prague. The talk examines how Czechoslovakian aeronautics engineer Rudolf Pešek (1905–1989) represented a driving force from mid-1965 onwards: Pešek coined the term CETI (Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligences), lobbied the authorities in his country, initiated a wide chain of correspondence and got the International Academy of Astronautics on board. All of these efforts were cut abruptly by the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968. The talk shows how SETI was, despite many challenges, established as a legitimate international scientific pursuit – and a corresponding international network set in place.
Gabriela Radulescu, graduate student in history of science at the Technical University of Berlin