At Real Life, Lou Cornum examines the future of space exploration as imagined by both government agencies such as NASA, and egomaniacal entrepreneurs like Elon Musk. Both of these visions, argues Cornum, see space as a territory for conquest and appropriation, reflecting a colonialist “frontier” mindset. For a radically different vision of space exploration, Cornum suggests that we turn to queer science fiction. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:
Leaders in industry who have always wanted to be world leaders are now positioning themselves as leaders of outer worlds. Elon Musk makes union busting seem like a cosmic necessity for the continuation of human life. The material and subsequent cultural valorization of certain kinds of work in the tech industry, wherein the “great minds” make all the money and those who maintain the machinery of day-to-day existence are treated like the shit they’re supposed to take, does not end at the stratosphere.
Even the more lofty moral considerations of outer-space ethics (e.g., is terraforming ever morally acceptable?) often ignore their fundamental basis in deathly processes still very much situated on Earth. Any outer-space endeavor today or in the near future will be an extension of the life-destroying capacities of capitalists and their colonial countries. On the Deep Space Industries page for asteroid mining, the exploitation and extraction of minerals is heralded as “an unlimited future for all mankind.” The endless extension of capitalist accumulation comes with an extension of this delusion of “all mankind.” As if all such projects, the project of humanity itself, has not always been an exclusionary one.
Image taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in 2013, with earth indicated by an arrow. Via Vox.