Association of Autonomous Astronauts


The Association of Autonomous Astronauts is a worldwide network of community based groups dedicated to building their own spaceships. The AAA was founded in 1995. Although many of their activities were reported as serious participation in conferences or protests against the militarization of space, some were also considered art pranks, media pranks, or just an elaborate spoof. The AAA had numerous local chapters which operated independently of one another, with the AAA effectively operating as a collective pseudonym along the lines of a nom de plume.

The Association’s ostensible five-year mission, a reference to Star Trek, was to ‘establish a planetary network to end the monopoly of corporations, governments and the military over travel in space.’ Artists who became involved were often connected to the zine scene or mail art movements. The five year mission’s completion was marked at the 2000 Fortean Times conference, although some chapters have continued activities to the present day. Several AAAers have experienced zero-gravity training flights.

Writer Tom Hodgkinson described them as ‘a loose bunch of Marxists, futurists, and revolutionaries on the dole,’ going on to explicate their mission as ‘reclaim[ing] the idea of space travel for the common man.’ To the AAA, he said, ‘space travel represented an ideal of freedom.’ Their work is viewed as ‘space art’ that ‘combine[d] freely space, cyberspace, raves, esoteric things, techno-music, etc.,’ calling attention to ‘how they recycle … key images (the MIR Space Station, the astronauts on the Moon, etc.) … mixed with science-fiction (and specially Star Trek) buzz-words or images” and then subject these ‘sacred icons’ to ‘iconoclastic treatments’.

Theorist Brian Holmes commented the AAA like this : ‘The ideas sound fantastic, but the stakes are real: imagining a political subject within the virtual class, and therefore, within the economy of cultural production and intellectual property that had paralyzed the poetics of resistance.’ The London chapter participated notably in the J18 Carnival Against Capitalism protests during that year’s G8 summit, with a contingent of AAA members dressed in space suits delivering a petition against the militarisation of space to the headquarters of Lockheed. The group was particularly concerned about the nuclear powered, Cassini-Huygens spacecraft.

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