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Non Stop Future

New Practices in Art and Media

Non Stop Future Cover

Editors: Branka .ur.i., Zoran Panteli. / New Media

Published 2008

Publisher: Revolver - Archiv für aktuelle Kunst

ISBN: 978-3-86588-455-8

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Jason Skeet

Space travel - By Any Means Necessary

An Introduction to the Association of Autonomous Astronauts' Intergalactic Conference Vienna, June 21-22, 1997

The Association of Autonomous Astronauts (AAA) was launched on April 23, 1995 as the world's first independent and community-based space program. A Five Year Plan was also established for creating, by the year 2000, a world-wide network of local, community-based AAA groups dedicated to building their own spaceships. In order to expand this project, the AAA has organised an Intergalactic Conference on independent, community-based space travel, that will take place in Vienna, Earth, June 21-22, 1997. This conference will bring together various strands within the Association of Autonomous Astronauts, for further cross-fertilisation of ideas and experiences, demonstrating the varied and at times contradictory movements Autonomous Astronauts make whilst escaping from gravity. The conference will also expose local communities in Vienna to the possibilities of independent space exploration. Indeed, this Intergalactic Conference will advance the AAA's aim to grow and develop in several directions at once.

One of the trajectories that the conference will trace is the new phase that the AAA's Five Year Plan for creating a world-wide network of local, community-based groups now moves into. We have called this phase the Dreamtime, and it is in essence a transversalist concept which helps to define the AAA's total opposition to other existing space programs. The Dreamtime asks,"What is the point of going into space only to replicate life on planet earth?". AAA groups around the world are now exploring what kind of experimental modes of living Autonomous Astronauts will create in space, what new social relations will be formed, and what new activities will fill up the empty spaces that had previously fixed the limits of life back on planet earth. The Dreamtime regards space travel as an evolutionary process which will inevitably lead to the extinction of present-day government space agencies. Autonomous Astronauts will create an extra-terrestrial consciousness that jettisons earth-based concepts of national borders and state controls. Amongst other things, the AAA is exploring how sex in zero-gravity will be even better than it is on planet earth, investigating the potential for organising raves in space, and using games of 3-sided football as essential training for Autonomous Astronauts. The AAA is interested in the new possibilities that open up when we form autonomous communities in space.

After the Second World War, organisations like NASA emerged to regulate and control the developments in space exploration technology. Since the collapse of the cold war myth, NASA has been struggling desperately for a new identity. It no longer has the Soviet enemy to compete with, and must dream up new excuses for itself. The AAA has consistently rejected the rationale of government space programs which, dominated by the world-view of engineers, regard the universe as a vast machine that can be manipulated according to certain laws and principles. For example, we completely oppose the idea of terraforming other planets. (Terraforming is the creation of a potentially life-supporting atmosphere on a planet through the acceleration of this process by an outside force. This may come in the form of exploding nuclear weapons above the planet's surface or by causing a succession of meteorites to hit the planet. A massive "greenhouse" effect is created, thus beginning the process that hopefully leads to an atmosphere capable of supporting carbon-based life-forms – terraforming has been proposed for Mars). The AAA understands that terraforming will be the action of a capitalist system that, completely out of control, has exhausted the earth's resources and requires another planet to devour.

The AAA has formed an approach to technology that is primarily concerned with investigating how a specific technology is used and who gets to use that technology. It is inevitable that the technology to build spaceships will get cheaper, or even that new technologies will be developed that make present-day rocket propulsion systems entirely redundant. The AAA is the world's only space program that makes technological issues secondary to the concern with what we will be doing when we form autonomous communities in outer space. The AAA investigates conceptions of space exploration in which the imagination is central. In doing so, Autonomous Astronauts create a complex interactive project that anyone can participate in, and which completely changes existing notions of space travel.

AAA groups develop specific strategies for engaging in the process of social transformation that they have dared to dream of. One such strategy for the redistribution of resources throughout society is an AAA inspired competition for the first privately-funded group to have sex in space. The XXX Prize Foundation, based in London, has announced that it intends to pay £1 million to the first privately-funded team to launch a craft into sub-orbital space – about 60 miles – and to then engage in sexual intercourse whilst up there. This sexual act may take any form and involve any number of people, but visual documentation must be provided to prove that the sex did occur in a weightless environment. Meanwhile, other AAA groups continue to point out how the process of creating autonomous communities in space must go hand-in-hand with an identical process back on planet earth. Wealth will then be re-defined in terms of the quality of life within autonomous communities in space. Autonomous Astronauts are making this future happen.

Not only is the AAA combating the government, military and corporate monopoly of space travel, but Autonomous Astronauts are also fighting the increasing number of private enterprise space exploration groups. The AAA has revealed how these conquests of zero-gravity space will be a continuation of the imperialist occupations of planet earth. The Catholic Church has even discussed with NASA a plan for the conversion of aliens to Christianity. But as the technology to go into space becomes cheaper, the AAA will be concerned with how that technology is used. Plans to create a space tourist industry confirm that the myth of the "free market" will be projected into space in a bid to further fabricate the fantasy of capitalisms that are inescapable and omnipresent like the force of gravity. The AAA opposes the "wild west" pioneer metaphors put out by many of these space age entrepreneurs by bringing to space travel a class dimension, and demonstrating how economic austerity is manufactured by those who have a vested interest in preventing the working class from building our own spaceships.

The AAA does not intend to be interpreted as a metaphor for something else. When we talk about building our own spaceships we really mean just that. However, it does follow from this that what we have to say can have many different and complex levels of meaning to it. For example, the myth of space travel as the "final frontier" is like that other myth about private space enterprise in a universal "free market". These myths are designed to mask the social forces that actually shape the present-day state, corporate and military monopoly of space travel. The AAA opposes these myths with our own specifically constructed and contradictory propaganda. These rhetorical constructs are often put into orbit around the concept of space travel as being inherently bound to human evolution. The AAA has declared that the next stage in human evolution is to go into outer space.

But the AAA is not an utopian current for fin-de-si├Ęcle bargain hunters. The AAA is interested in the new social relations that exist with the creation of autonomous communities in space. This evolutionary process continues the moment someone opens their mind to such possibilities. According to our analysis, the AAA occupies a unique vantage point from which a multitude of historical trajectories may be traced. And yet, as a network of local, community-based groups who are not seeking to impose their visions of space exploration on anyone else, it has become clear that in outer space no-one will be concerned with the present-day organisation of knowledge. That is, the compartmentalisation of knowledge into the particular categories developed by capitalist culture over the last 500 years. The AAA network allows for a diversity of people to be involved, bringing together different experiences and skills. Ideas collide and new possibilities are made available.

A fundamental strategy developed by the AAA has been the ability to move in several directions at once. The AAA's Intergalactic Conference will further demonstrate this, and promises to be an intense two days of activity. The conference will include: a public presentation of the AAA's aims and objectives, with a debate on independent space exploration; screening of AAA promotional videos; the opportunity to meet Autonomous Astronauts informally; a SpaceBase established for the duration of the conference, where AAA propaganda material will be on display; a rave in space dance party with experimental electronic music; training day for Autonomous Astronauts with game of 3-sided football. In addition to this, computer terminals will be available for visiting an AAA web-site made by Viennese children, and a spaceship with an interior designed and constructed by children at the Vienna Kinder Museum will be installed. But the real challenge for those that attend this conference will remain - how to build our own spaceships and construct autonomous communities in outer space.