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Can We Decolonize Space Exploration?


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.


Can we decolonize the influence the Han Chinese have on Tibetians… in space exploration? The concept of decolonize that is abused here assumes that you lack all integrity and should just go in that corner and commit hare kiri. I give two mulligans for the author not realizing that going someplace is colonizing; when you take a vacation to Moscow during your stay you are expressing your native point of view and influencing others. Let’s rephrase the title into what it means; should we stop thinking and breathing, just lay down and die? The obvious answer is those suffering from self-loathing do better to follow that advice, while the rest of us are awed by the majesty of the cosmos. And by the way, there will never be time travel, else we would have visited ourselves from the future. Nor are we in danger of encountering aliens since they would have visited us by now too. But overall the simple minded political and historical illiteracy of this article makes me feel shame for the author. My regrets, or more suitable, my condolences.


I’ll meet your two mulligans and raise you one more if you actually read the whole article. You seem to be making up a new definition of the word ‘colonize’ simply to verbally abuse the author of this article. If you actually read it, you might be less inclined to tell people to kill themselves on the internet.


To colonize was the most natural process since the dawn of time. The Cro-Magnon colonized the Neanderthal. the Romans colonized the Germans, Mongolians colonized the East with pyramids of 70,000 skulls. I am not making up new definitions, rather the historically illiterate restrict that word to a condemnation of Western culture whereas the behaviour is common to humanity. I wonder if the moral depression of Western culture might not be the result of Russian interference, since they proudly claim such manipulation to destabilize the West…

But the best colonial castigation was the #sciencemustfail movement. "Science Must Fail.” At a conference it was said that Science is a colonial imposition of Western Culture that is restricted. An example was given: “If I cast a spell for lightning to hit someone a thousand miles away and lightning does hit that person, how does science explain that? It can’t!” A professor stood up to complain but he was shouted down for his cultural insensitivity and made to apologize to the audience. You can google this one. The article did not impress me. To lack any pride in one’s accomplishments, to live in self-loathing that fears to influence others, must be a horrible life to live. If my influence colonizes, then I am doing a good deed.


Nothing in your statements pertains to the piece of writing being discussed. The word “decolonize” does not appear in this piece of writing, for instance. There is no evidence of this essay advocating self loathing, or Russian spies. This essay is not an argument against human migration, but strongly supports human movement. Why are you saying these things?

More importantly, this essay advocates for public science, and space exploration. This is pretty much perpendicular to this argument you seem to have set up for your self around some kind of anti-science “moral depression.”


“How can we decolonize space exploration” is the title, to gently remind you…