Astarte Cluster is one of the largest habitat complexes in the Belt. The cluster is controlled by the Astarte Collective, headed by the eponymous AI (in turn named for the Indo-European goddess of creation and destruction). The aims of the Collective are extreme even amongst the radical philosophies of the Belt: to tie humanity and the AIs together into one distributed, hierarchical Self, achieving a god-like transcendence. This apotheosis still lies far in the future, but all of Astarte Cluster's policies work towards it. As a means to this end, the Collective encourages the augmentation of the human body and mind by any means possible.
Astarte Cluster and Earth are engaged in an economic, cultural and political cold war fought on many fronts across Sol System. This confrontation is certainly the most intense element of the general Earth-Belt rivalry. The Collective see Earth as impossibly conservative, as well as neo-imperialist and childishly violent (citing, amongst other incidents, the kinetic-kill attacks on the Cluster in the wake of Shiva). The Terrans, especially the Praesidium, characterise Astarte Cluster as repressive, centralist and dangerously radical; only the last may be a valid criticism.
The Astartans are highly decentralised- the Collective refer to the phyle's organization as a holographic culture. Any one of the dozens of Astartan ships scattered across Sol System is a representative microcosm of the whole; many even carry aspects of Astarte itself, as well as their own AIs. Partly as a reflection of the quirky humour of their core AIs and partly as a propaganda tool against Earth, many of these ships bear irreverent or unusual names.
The future of Ad Astra