spreading life throughout the
"I know that humans will colonize the solar system and one day go beyond." Mike Griffin, former NASA Administrator.
A billion years ago there was no life on land. In a phenomenal
development, by 400 million years ago land life was well established.
We are at the very beginning of a similar, perhaps even more important, development. Today Earth teems with life, but as far as we know,
in the vast reaches of space there are only a handful of astronauts, a few plants and animals, and some bacteria and fungi; mostly on the
International Space Station. We can change that. In the 1970's Princeton physicist Gerard O'Neill,
with the help of NASA Ames Research Center and Stanford University, discovered that we can build gigantic spaceships, big
enough to live in. These free-space settlements could be wonderful places to live; about the size of a California beach town and
endowed with weightless recreation, fantastic views, freedom, elbow-room in spades, and great wealth.
In time, we may see millions of free-space settlements in our solar system alone. Building them, particularly the first one,
is a monumental challenge. If this sounds exciting, read on.
- Who? Pioneers at first, billions of ordinary people later.
- What? Gigantic rotating, pressurized spacecraft the size of towns or even cities.
- Where? In orbit; near Earth at first.
- How? Solar energy, lunar and asteroidal materials, and lots of hard work.
- Why? To grow.
- When? Good question, when do you start working on it?
- How much will it cost? A lot
Student Design Contest
NASA Ames sponsors an annual space settlement design contest
for 6-12th grade students.
Online Space Settlement Books
Other Space Settlement Web Sites
- A Futurist Perspective For Space by Dr. Kenneth J. Cox, (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 2001. (pdf file)
- Isaac Asimov on space settlement.
- SpaceSettlers. A site devoted to space settlement discussion.
- The Space Show. The Space Show focuses on timely and important issues influencing the developmentof outer-space commerce and space tourism, as well as other related subjects of interest to us all.
These are highlights associated with the design contest that were reported
to NAS management.
- Videos of weightless living.
- Annotated bibliography.
- Ringworld: a Java applet to interactively explore
some aspects of living in a rotating environment, particularly jumping off high platforms and throwing balls.
- Links to solar sail web sites.
- Lewis One space settlement design: intended to improve on the 10,000 inhabitant designs of the mid-70s depicted in the artwork (see above). The new design features large shielded micro-g construction bays, low-g agriculture near the rotation axis to reduce the length of cylindrical settlements, large micro-g visitor and recreation areas, space viewing, and low-g recreation.
- Space Settlement papers
"AsterAnts: A Concept for Large-Scale Meteoroid
Return and Processing Using the International Space Station," Al Globus, Bryan Biegel, and Steve Traugott.
- Space playgound a zero-g playground designed by four, five, and six year olds at the Santa Cruz Children's School.
- General Public Space Travel and Tourism
- Related web sites.
Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that new ideas pass through three periods:
- "It can't be done."
- "It probably can be done, but it's not worth doing."
- "I knew it was a good idea all along!"
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Last Updated: April 22, 2014
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