spreading life throughout the solar system
"I want Americans to ... push out into the solar system
not just to visit, but to stay." Barack Obama, U.S. President,
in the 2015 State of the Union address to Congress.
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.
Subsequent discoveries have brought this dream much closer.
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? Very large to 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
Survive and Thrive.
- When? Good question, when
do you start working on it?
NASA Ames Space Settlement 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)
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
- 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
- Links to solar sail web
- 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
- 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
- "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!"