The Dangerous Religion of the Corporate Space Race

A revealing look at the parallel mythologies behind the colonization of Earth and space—and a bold vision for a more equitable, responsible future both on and beyond our planet.

As environmental, political, and public health crises multiply on Earth, we are also at the dawn of a new space race in which governments team up with celebrity billionaires to exploit the cosmos for human gain. The best-known of these pioneers are selling different visions of the future: while Elon Musk and SpaceX seek to establish a human presence on Mars, Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin work toward moving millions of earthlings into rotating near-Earth habitats. Despite these distinctions, these two billionaires share a core utopian project: the salvation of humanity through the exploitation of space.

In Astrotopia, philosopher of science and religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein pulls back the curtain on the not-so-new myths these space barons are peddling, like growth without limit, energy without guilt, and salvation in a brand-new world. As Rubenstein reveals, we have already seen the destructive effects of this frontier zealotry in the centuries-long history of European colonialism. Much like the imperial project on Earth, this renewed effort to conquer space is presented as a religious calling: in the face of a coming apocalypse, some very wealthy messiahs are offering an other-worldly escape to a chosen few. But Rubenstein does more than expose the values of capitalist technoscience as the product of bad mythologies. She offers a vision of exploring space without reproducing the atrocities of earthly colonialism, encouraging us to find and even make stories that put cosmic caretaking over profiteering.

  • “Rubenstein, while expertly dismantling some overblown claims of companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, proposes a gentler mode of space exploration that refuses to rehearse the violent history of colonialism on earth.” Steven Poole, Wall Street Journal
  • “Astrotopia is superb and will fascinate anyone curious about the current space fervor. ” Booklist
  • “Rubenstein lends fresh energy to a familiar debate about the value of space programs, dreams of mining the solar system, and colonizing the moon and Mars.” Kirkus Reviews
  • Astrotopia is an adventurous ride into outer space. Rubenstein masterfully places our desire to travel the cosmic seas within a historical and religious context, which is illuminating. Sublimely entertaining, Rubenstein brings levity to such a complex subject matter. To understand the future of the space industry, Astrotopia is a must-read.” Ingrid LaFleur, founder and director, The Afrofuture Strategies Institute
  • One of the most philosophically sophisticated, mythically impactful, contemporarily relevant, and wickedly funny books I have read in a very long time. ‘Influential’ is a grotesque understatement. ‘Game-changing’ is more like it. ” Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge