Accepted paper:

Innovation and neocolonialism in the European Space Agency's Moon Village concept (or how Europe will guide humanity into deep space)

Authors:

Tamara Alvarez (The New School )

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the synergies and frictions between the expert groups implicated in the Moon Village, discussing the ways in which the project's neocolonial rationality and EC innovation initiatives more generally seek to consolidate the EU and advance its position in the international arena.

Paper long abstract:

Four months after the Brexit referendum, the European Commission and the European Space Agency issued a joint statement on their Shared Vision and Goals for the Future of European Space, expressing a "common European ambition that Europe remains a world-class actor" through space solutions' contribution to the continent's economic growth. In line with its new commitment to "strengthen European values" and foster prosperity through technoscientific innovation, ESA has been developing the Moon Village, a lunar base concept that aims to bring mining companies and scientists together on the Moon. According to the agency, the project will inspire young Europeans, showing them that all is possible (even settling on the Moon) if we see the continent as it looks like from orbit —borderless, united. Yet ESA's ambitions are even grander. "Through Europe's tradition of exploration and innovation," an ESA video claims after recounting Columbus' navigation feats, "we're helping to redefine humanity once more." Many experts at ESA, however, remain wary of these neocolonial narratives, while others, from managers to planetary scientists, express concerns about an ever-expanding logic of extraction that is reconfiguring space as a new resource frontier. Drawing on ethnographic material gathered during a two-year fieldwork at ESA, this paper examines the synergies and frictions between ESA expert groups, EU policies, and private companies implicated in the Moon Village, discussing the ways in which the project's neocolonial rationality and EC innovation initiatives more generally seek to consolidate the EU and advance its position in the international arena.

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Stream:
Discovery, discussion and decision
Technopolitics of integration. Charting imaginaries of innovation in the European Union