Space travel: Euston, we have a problem

The Association of Autonomous Astronauts wants everyone to go to the moon (trouble is, its global budget is only pounds 157). By Angela Butto lph

ompared to us, NASA are dinosaurs,"

says John Eden of the Association of

Autonomous Astronauts. "We're sexier in a number of ways." According to the AAA, it can't be much fun being part of a state-controlled space programme - "just dock in and follow orders". So in 1995 a group of 20- somethings with a severe case of wanderlust established the AAA - "the world's first independent and community-based space programme," dedicated to putting the fun back into intergalactic travel. "We're promising sex and parties in space," says John. "That's what people want."

Space is no longer the final frontier, but unless you are a whizz at astrophysics or have pounds 98,000 for a ticket on the first commercial space flights (ETA 2001), you have little hope of getting there. The AAA's Andi Freeman claims it offers the only solution: space travel by the people for the people.

The AAA is more interested in rock 'n' roll than rock samples. Aside from planning lunar-raves, and conducting "research into the sexual possibilities of zero-gravity", much time is spent daydreaming ... or, as the AAA has it, practising "astral projection" (visualising space flights) and "psycho- geographical exercises" (navigating around your earthly neighbourhood using a map of the moon).

Three-sided football matches form a vital part of the AAA's space-training. Playing three teams (one ball) simultaneously, literally adds a new dimension to the game's more traditional back-and-forth formula; perfect for getting to grips with both the anti-gravity conditions on the moon and the AAA's inherent silliness. To add to the chaos, players swap teams randomly and/or refuse to divulge which team they're playing for. This anarchic pursuit has spawned its motto, "Moving in Several Directions at Once".

The AAA's Five Year Plan to establish "a worldwide network of local, community-based AAA groups dedicated to building their own spaceships", has seen membership, er, rocket. There are currently 30 AAA groups - from Euston to Copenhagen and New Zealand. Surprisingly, there aren't any US-based groups yet. Perhaps they're baffled by the hints of irony (or they're all too busy watching the X-Files). The AAA is determined to "leave this society behind", Stuart explains. "We don't want to end up on the moon with branches of McDonald's everywhere."

If 1997's Intergalactic Conference in Vienna is anything to go by, the AAA isn't alone in its beliefs. Hundreds of wannabe-Gagarins, many of them over seven years old, assisted in an ambitious rocket-building programme that AAA members heralded as a triumph, but which one onlooker described as "more Blue Peter than Cape Canaveral".

And we're talking space travelling in style. The AAA advocates the use of fun fur and sequins to decorate both space suits and ships "to counter the masculinist bias of space exploration ... undermining the rocket + phallus fantasy".

"We're serious about the business of going into space," says John, seriously, at an AAA presentation (during The Festival of Underground Literature), which "for technical reasons", had to be held on Earth. Ask the AAA for details of its intergalactic tactics, though, and the answers become a little sketchy ("Euston, we have a problem").

"People do sometimes say, 'Where's your spaceship?' but we're not worried," beams Julie. "There are plenty of DIY rocket enthusiasts out there, and with their technical skills and our imagination we'll go far." This is where NASA has the edge but when it comes to technical know-how, the AAA plays a mean game of three-sided football.

Surprisingly, it is in contact with its rivals - "We hope people in the European Space Agency and NASA will come and work for us instead." No wonder government-controlled space agencies are worried. "Unsurprisingly, the most concerted efforts to undermine the AAA have come from those most threatened - the state space agencies, NASA in particular," tuts Neil. Like, how? "In March NASA announced the discovery of frozen water on the moon ... to show that they alone have a practical programme for space exploration. NASA are attempting to hijack the dreams and visions of autonomous spaceflight and channel them into support for its own discredited state space programme."

Junior Autonomous Astronauts are exactly the kind of conscientious kids you would want to populate the moon with. Billy, six, is particularly concerned about missing his homework while he's away. He is equally worried that zero-gravity conditions "might make the TV go upside down".

Fiercely anti-capitalist ("No to Blairism and Economic Rationalism! Yes to Weightlessness and Exploration!"), the AAA's collective global funds currently total pounds 157.26. It is relying on appealing for donations from David Bowie (composer of "Space Oddity" and, therefore, doubtless a kindred spirit), sales from T-shirts and the optimistic belief that the price of propulsion-engine technology will drop over time, "like the price of the pocket calculator did".

"No one can now write a history of space travel without mentioning the contributions of the Association of Autonomous Astronauts," says Skeet proudly, disregarding the significance of the world "travel".

"In a sense we're already in outer space," says the AAA's Stuart. "It's very earth-centric to think we're not"

AAA, BM Box 3641 London WC1 3XX

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before