Space Freedoms


SEPS: Curtis Publishing

Norman Rockwell

Sparking conversations through artwork  and envisioning future values for a spacefaring society

Sparking conversations through artwork  and envisioning future values for a spacefaring society

Much thinking about humanity’s future beyond Earth is  focused on the technologies needed to support life. But what kinds of lives might we want to lead in space? With this project, we’re beginning a series of dialogs with people from across the world to articulate the values that should undergird future spacefaring society. 

We draw inspiration from US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s articulation of the “Four Freedoms.” In his 1941 State of the Union Address to Congress, Roosevelt sought to explain to Congress and an American public that was averse to entanglement in another global conflict why the United States must join in the defense of the Allied Powers:

"No realistic American can expect from a dictator’s peace international generosity, or return of true independence, or world disarmament, or freedom of expression, or freedom of religion – or even good business."

Roosevelt characterized “the things worth fighting for” as four freedoms that should characterize a free, democratic society:

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of religion
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from Fear

Delivered against the backdrop of a United State emerging from the Great Depression, these were lofty goals. But they took root in the American imagination, in substantial part due to their translation and popularization by American artist Norman Rockwell.  

Rockwell stated he wanted to, “make some statement about why the country was fighting the war”. The paintings uphold familiar themes of community, work ethic, educational and judicial systems, the political process, and the family. In the face of an adversary, the war effort (and the nation state’s role) was justified as a method to preserve the security of the American way of life – in particular, the family unit. 

At the start of a new era of space exploration, we see a similar need to identify the values that should animate spacefaring society. And we also see a need for discursive artifacts that can help spur and reflect the outputs of deliberation of these values. 


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