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Radio Interview With an Autonomous Astronaut Broadcast

'The Robert Elms Show'
Greater London Radio, 6/12/96

Today we have a member of the Association of Autonomous Astronauts. What?

Chris Sullivan: What?

What? (laughing). Yeah. The Association of Autonomous Astronauts.

Who are what?

Well, we're a world-wide network of local, community-based groups, all dedicated to building our own space ships.


Yeah, very seriously.

'Cos when, er, it had on my bit of paper "Chris Sullivan coming in with a spaceman", which is the sort of thing that they tend to write on my bits of paper.

Right. Well, what we want to do is destroy the present day monopoly of space exploration which is maintained by the government and corporate or military interests.


And basically open it up so that anybody can-

O: Not Chris!

Yeah, Chris if he wants...

C: No, no.


C: No. (laughs)

So come on, Chris, tell me a bit about the literature and stuff you have in front of you.

C: Well, it says at the beginning, here that you often get asked by media hacks if the AAA is all a big joke. But then in your thing here (points at the 1st Annual Report) you have this thing about "Roaches in Space", where you sent two, er, cockroaches into space and it says that practical details such as toilets and physical exercise for the inhabitants of this ?????? cabin lead to delays and problems.

Well, the Roaches in Space project was some people in France, I represent a London based group, so I can't really speak for everyone.

But you are serious about it?

Oh yeah, we are serious about it, and when people ask if we're a joke or if it's a metaphor for something else we have to tell them "no".

So if there's a group you must have meetings?

Well, as I've said it's a network, and we have a 5 year plan which started on April the 23rd 1995, which was also the official launch of the AAA. And that 5 year plan is to establish by the year 2000 a world-wide network of local, community-based groups.

But what's the aim of the organisation? To get you up in rockets?

Well, the immediate aim is to set up that world-wide network. And as a network it allows to travel in several directions at once. In other words we don't have a fixed agenda for how we are going to escape from gravity. If you look at other organisations like NASA, they have to have a very fixed notion of how to travel into space.

They also have to have about 80 billion pounds! (laughs)

C: That's what I was saying - it's the spondoolicks which will get in the way, somewhat - I would have thought?

Is it an expensive business - space travel?

Well it can be, and at the moment it is. But our response to that is that if you look at the way that technology has developed over the 20th century, these things eventually become cheaper and more accessible. If you look at computers for example; when the first computer came out in the forties or fifties, it cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. But now you can buy a computer for a fraction of the price and it's far more powerful as well.

You can nip down to Dixons.


What do you do to further your aims? do you design ships? What are your specific kind of...

Well the notion of being able to travel in several directions at once means that we're not only concerned with the technology.


What makes us different to other space programmes is that we're far more interested in what's going to happen when we actually get out there. We're not just interested in technology itself, we're interested in how the technology is used. We're interested in the new possibilities that are going to open up when we begin to form autonomous communities in space. We're interested in the kind of lives that we're going to be able to construct for ourselves when we get into zero gravity.

So is there a kind of political/moral aspect to all this? - Is it anarchists in space?

It's not anarchists in space, as I've said we don't have any kind of ideology. We want anyone - and everyone to get involved. We see it from the perspective of evolution as well. We think that the next stage in human evolution is to go into space.

Chris has barely escaped from the last stage...

C: Yeah. (Mumbles). I know you told me that these are very serious subjects, but having been sent this thing (the 1st Annual Report), I must quote, it says that at one time we wanted to launch some balloons at the Copper Horse statue outside of Windsor Castle and you couldn't at 3pm because of engine trouble of your cars. I don't think Buzz Aldrin would have been caught in traffic!

Well he obviously didn't have to deal with the M25, did he?

(Laughter) It's true, though, - he has a point, Chris. Buzz did have a very different set of problems.

C: And another part of it - a lot of it is on about marital relationships in space. And I quote, one of the things that it says tried to do here: "elastic belts around the thighs of the two partners" (indistinct) "buttocks and groin"-

Ooh! This sounds like it's getting saucy!

I have to explain that. The document that you're referring to there is a document that we found, allegedly from NASA, talking about how they try and enable people to have sex in space. Now, this is an important aspect to our programme. As far as we know, no-one's actually done it in space, and the document you've just read out from is supposedly a NASA document. They talk about "continuing normal marital relations" in space.

C: What - arguing with your missus, I suppose? (laughs)

Well, we're saying that we're not interested in going into space if all you're going to do when you get there is replicate the same kind of conditions that currently prevail on this planet. Y'know - what's the point? Our sex in space hypothesis is that in zero gravity it's going to be even better. Which is why it's important that we get up there and we conduct certain experiments to test out that hypothesis.

I mean, taking you seriously for a while - and I'm prepared to do that, how far away do you think it is before there are alternative, non-governmental forays into space?

Well, it's already happening.

(Utter disbelief). No! It's not!

It is! In America there are several private enterprise projects which aim to get into space, some of them talk about in the next 5 years. Recently there's something called the "X Prize Foundation" which has been started up, which is basically $10 billion for the first privately-funded spacecraft which gets into sub-orbital flight. So that's not even full orbital flight, but about 100 km.

Would you go, Chris?

C: I don't even like travelling on the tube.

Well, the point I'm trying to make is that people are thinking about these things, but rather than it being controlled by government or corporate or military interests-

Particularly the American government.

-and also simply rather than it becoming an extension of the tourist industry or-

Because that's the other way it's likely to go, isn't it? Hotels in space...

Yeah. There's a Japanese company that's already got plans for building hotels on the moon. And they did a recent survey in Japan and they reckoned there'd be about 800,000 people that would be willing to pay a lot of money-

C: Well, that Japs will go anywhere, eh?

With their cameras, yeah. The point is there is a lot of interest, these things are going to happen, the technology is going to get cheaper and more available and there is a struggle over how that technology is going to be used.

So, how many people are taking part in the struggle from your side? How many members of the AAA?

At the moment (laughs) it's difficult to give you a precise number. I can say that there's about 13 different groups across the world, that's mainly this country, France, Italy... Scotland as well. And, as I say, by the year 2000 we hope to extend that network across the world - and beyond.

So no-one's sitting at home building suits out of tin foil or anything?

No - we're far more serious than that.

C: And what do you think about the whole hypothesis that the whole space programme, the moon landing, was faked?

My Grandma believed that.

C: Because we had this chap in who's a photographic journalist and he's absolutely convinced that it was a complete and utter fake.

Well, the only way is for us to build our own spaceships and go up there and check it out.

I'm not going

C: No, there has to be a bit more on the moon for me.


C: Food, rather than dust. And beach

Night-clubs, clothes shops...

Well, we've got a rave in space programme.

(laughs). Really?

Oh yeah, definitely. We've already got people who are researching the kind of music that would be the most appropriate for that kind of environment.

I should really have chosen something like "Star man" or something, shouldn't I? But I thought it would be a cheap shot. So you've got UB40 instead...

(fades to the atrocious "1 in 10")

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