(investigation into) Decolonization and Extra-Terrestrial Lands: Learning from Hawai'i  
presented at Rhode Island School of Design and Harvard STS Circle 

The solar system’s resources are the key to humanity’s future.
Our civilization’s demand for energy and material resources is rapidly growing toward the limits of the planet. There is mounting evidence that we are beginning to feel those limits...

...Fortunately, the processes that formed our habitable Earth also endowed the solar system with literally billions of times more resources than exist on one planet alone.

-Metzger, Philip T., Anthony Muscatello, Robert P. Mueller, and James Mantovani. 2013.
Affordable, rapid bootstrapping of the space industry and solar system civilization.
Journal of Aerospace Engineering 26 (1) (January 2013): 18-29

Marks of extraction in the side of Pu'u Nene, a cinder cone at the base of Mauna Kea.

Growing out of fieldwork conducted on the Big Island in summer 2015, I am in the midst of investigating the colonialist dynamics at play in past, existing, and future Mars missions, and of imagining decolonized methods and architectures of interplanetary exploration. The work is inspired by the Mauna Kea Protectors, a group of native Hawaiian activists and allies fighting for land use rights of the Big Island volcano Mauna Kea.

In October 2014, protests began against the proposed construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) at the top of Mauna Kea on Hawai'i’s Big Island. The TMT was set to be the 14th telescope constructed at the volcano’s peak; however, its planned construction was halted by the Mauna Kea Protectors. The Protectors claimed that construction of the TMT was an infringement of indigenous rights to land use determinations, and that new construction atop Mauna Kea was an unallowable continuation of the desecration of a sacred site within native culture and mythology. Five years of court battles and continued protests later, native Hawaiians continue their fight for self-determination and against the construction of the TMT.

In the midst of the native Hawaiians’ fight for decolonization, preparations are being made for a colonization mission of a complexity surpassing anything humanity has yet to execute – the colonization of Mars. Due to the deep similarities between Mars and the Big Islands’ terrain and soil composition, the Big Island is used as a “terrestrial analog” – an Earth-based substitute for other planets – for space research by a global community of public and private entities, including NASA.

Today, on the slopes of Mauna Kea’s neighborhing volcano Mauna Loa sits HI-SEAS, a NASA-funded simulation of a human habitat on Mars that runs experiments lasting between 4 months and one year. The Hawaiian-state funded space technology R&D group, PISCES, develops and tests its own robotics for lunar and martian terrain on the island, in addition to facilitating technology testing by government space agencies and a host of private companies. The Orbital Technologies Corporation has mined in the area for soil to package as regolith (soil) simulant for use in experiments and technology development.

The poignancy of preparations for interplanetary colonization being undertaken on the very same land that is currently in the midst of a decolonization battle should not be wasted. Although the absence of an indigenous human population on Mars makes the situation different than existing forms of settler-colonialism, the reproduction of colonialist frameworks in our relationship with other planets creates the potential for fresh scenarios of colonial violence and harm.

The Protector’s camp on Mauna Kea in August 2015

A photogrammetric reconstruction of tire marks left near Pu'u Nene by   the PISCES rover Helelani during technology testing in August 2015.

The first human drill marks on Mars, produced by the rover Curiosity on February 3, 2013, at a rock formation named “John Klein.”