spaceXile is a fictional corporate name, established in a post-capital punishment future. The main objective of the company is to send former death-row inmates to outer space missions in order to keep them separate from society as well as providing free labor for exploration and experiments on human inhabitation in outer space. The prisoners deployed by the company are called astro-prisoners. The project uses methods of Scenario Planning and Design Fiction to speculate the events of this fictional story and the design objects associated with it.
During 80 years from 1788 to 1868, about 164,000 convicts were exiled to Australia on board 806 prison ships. These men and women were often used as penal labor in penal colonies. Some of them never arrived in Australia; others suffered from hunger, thirst, and lack of any form of health security.1 Shipping prisoners to exile is an historical trend in forms of social punishment.
From the beginning of the so-called “space age,” the promise of space investors was often better conditions for human life. The image of space exploration is adventurous and glorious and it even found its way into our cultural entertainments. The forerunners of space programs consider the human inhabitation of space as the only solution to prevent our species’ extinction.2 Although after the so-called space race, the propagation of this image has been reduced but outer space inhabitation has still its place in projected images of our future.
Space exploration and social punishment, though seemingly unrelated, share an important property and that is their existence in our images of future. It may possibly bring them into a common ground. Thinking about fictional scenarios of punishment in the context of outer space inhabitation emerges serious issues and problems that should be projected and addressed not merely from a problem-solving point of view but from a provoking one.
ACT I: SPONSORED RESEARCH
The first act is called Sponsored Research. This act shows a set of events from the perspective of the designer. The idea is that the company spaceXile and its partners are sponsoring a study and work of architecture design for their yet to launch spaceXile MARS program. In this act work of architecture including drawings, models, diagrams and renderings were used as props and the sponsored student represents his work for a committee including the sponsor’s representatives.
ACT II: REALITY TELEVISION
The second act is called Reality Television and it focuses on conditions and issues of astro-prisoners. In this act, I use scenery and situations designed in the first act to perform scenes of an imaginary reality television show that portrays the life of astro-prisoners on mars.
ACT III: REALITY TELEVISION
The final act is called Colonization. In this act, I focus on the perspective of authority. This act includes a short talk by the imaginary company CEO, George Musk, with company investors in which he defends the feasibility and morality of the company objectives and announces the date for the first mars mission launch. This act questions the morality of outer space imprisonment.