Oh man - I feel a lot of history with these images - they actually inspired one of the first online businesses I tried to make.
I wanted to put one of these images on my wall, but they were niche enough that I couldn't find anybody selling them. I printed one myself using Zazzle, but then I started thinking that it would be cool to create a place where anybody could share cool niche images they found and have them automatically be available as a poster. I built my site - https://postercoop.com - over a couple of months at the beginning of last year.
Per probably the second-most common fate of hacker projects (after not getting finished at all), I lost interest before doing much marketing or figuring out any sort of product/market fit, but it definitely an empowering experience to at least see a project through to going live on the internet and learn for myself that "build it and they will come" is for the most part a wishful fantasy :D
So work with the pizza place to get a special 95% discount then hand them cash "not related to the order". For something that's obviously a good faith contribution everyone involved will err toward the side of rubber stamping it as ok.
The rules are just a rule of thumb that we can apply evenly at scale to avoid corruption. When there's legitimately no corruption happening the rules get more flexible. If it ever becomes an issue HR will frown (because rules) but legal will apply the duck test and conclude that ~$10 pizza/person paid for by someone who doesn't need/want/isn't in a position to benefit from preferential treatment is not corruption.
NASA contractor here. Our funding has been slowly declining in recent years, with some years better than others. It's currently about 20 billion USD, or about 0.5% of the US budget. We are not what I would call "quite well funded", but we manage. A project I support, WFIRST, is currently over budget (as most space telescopes have been) and is constantly under threat of being cancelled. The recent shutdown cost the Government far more that what is needed to finish WFIRST.
Details of the NASA budget can be found at the inevitable Wikipedia page:
Nice site! I absolutely love the Visions of the Future posters (took a while to process 3gb of tiff to png) and would love to order one printed, but don't see where I can choose the country to ship to ... Is shipping geographically limited for now?
We are so driven by settling other planets, which of course I think we should do, that we forget that space habitats might be a more economical and also healthier first step into space.
Apart from the ones depicted in these images I'm more in favour with starting with cheaper techniques where we could wire up an initial station to a wire/tether, and put a weight (or another small station) at the other end, have them spin around to reproduce gravity.
Then we can move these pieces closer to asteroid belts to get resources.
A planet on the other hand is a gravity-well: it will always cost us energy and money to get out of such wells. My point is that we should start in pieces, and not necessarily put all our efforts to reach a planet. There can be many other steps in between.
I've been trying to figure out how effective solar power would be at the height you'd put a floating city. You're closer to the sun than Earth, much higher than Earth's surface, but in a very dense atmosphere...
My thoughts exactly. Especially since it's much easier to simulate 1 gravity in space with rotating space stations. (You live long enough on Mars/Moon/etc., you are not coming back without being crushed).
The stations would need to be rather large, but that's just an engineering and motivation problem. But with a little extra shielding (lot's of water in the hull - could be obtained from asteroids) they'd be very useful as living space (especially after climate change ravages our home planet).
They'd also be much better staging places for solar system exploration and have an advantage in trade (refueling, low energy requirement to get anywhere, excellent target for asteroid refinement without having to bring stuff into a gravity well and back up).
Not having to fight the atmosphere for solar energy is also a plus.
But humanity still clings to traditional gravity wells like the images in the OP show. Old Italian land-house style dwellings in an orbital ring station..
I agree, except for the availability of resources, a space station makes much more sense than a planetary colony. In addition, all stations depicted are highly sci-fi - a realistic station would have to be modular, to prevent catastrophic failure if anything goes wrong (i.e. at most one module is lost, all the air in the whole station).
The up-front costs are way bigger, because you have to manufacture a reinforced floor (which, in case of a planetary colony, is the planet itself) and spin up the station (to provide "gravity"). But operational costs should be much lower, because there is 0 delta-v to get to and from the station (except syncing orbits, which you need to do with a planet as well). Start with two modules tethered in spin, then add additional ones gradually.
If we transport the materials from Earth, the cost of initial material is similar to settling on a planet. Once we develop technology for off-world manufacturing, you can literally fly your manufacturing plant to an asteroid, build the station there (with plenty of resources available) and then reposition it however you want.
The only kinds of planets that it makes sense to settle, is ones with a magnetosphere - and even that only until we develop other ways of shielding (there are companies working on that - e.g. Talos http://spacetalos.com/ )
From what I understand, a structure needs to be quite massive to get meaningful gravity from a rotating hull unless you attempt to approach ludicrously unsafe angular velocity which would make repair / docking a big challenge. In The Expanse, Ceres station was spun up over many, many years and still only achieved about 1/3G. Not to use a fictional universe as a basis for science but afaik they at least tried to do the math correctly.
I think it doesn't need to be massive, it just needs to have massive radius. Could be as simple as having a really long and strong wire between two habitation modules. And you can start small (low distance, slow spin, little gravity) and increase gradually.
Expanse is neat, but spinning asteroids isn't realistic. The idea is that the acceleration at the surface of Ceres is 1/3g, pointing outwards (i.e. you fall "out" into space). That would imply that the ground/rocks etc literally floats away in space. Unless the surface is structurally strong enough to resist that (unlikely with most asteroids, many of which are literally rubble piles https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubble_pile ) the whole things would just disintegrate.
> From what I understand, a structure needs to be quite massive to get meaningful gravity from a rotating hull unless you attempt to approach ludicrously unsafe angular velocity which would make repair / docking a big challenge
The reason it has to be so massive is that otherwise the difference in the G-forces between your head and your feet can make you sick.
Unless we terraform a planet, we'll need domes (artificial habitats with roofs filled with air) anyways. The difference between a planetary and space settlement is then just the (reinforced) floor, and you gain having 0 delta-v launch costs.
> The difference between a planetary and space settlement is then just the (reinforced) floor, and you gain having 0 delta-v launch costs.
Anywhere intended for long-term habitation needs to be surrounded by 5m of metal or 10m of dirt (or a proper magnetosphere), and even a small amount of gravity can make life a lot more convenient in terms of having an up and down direction, not having to sleep next to a fan etc.
To my mind somewhere like Phobos makes the most sense for the first space colonies - enough dirt available to build things, not enough delta-v cost to matter.
I remember the painfully slow loading times as well as the excitement over these classic illustration
scans back in the 90s.
IMHO though we live in a "post scifi" age now (2019!) and should rather discard most of the mainstream utopian/dystopian fantasies already. At least until we manage to envision some pragmatic solutions to the very real and pressing problems we have on this planet right now.
We need to work together if we want to even have a slight chance to survive the next couple of decades collectively. We need some genuinely new utopian thinking if we want us all to survive.
Most of these billionaire "backup" plans as well as middle class "prepper" movements are dangerous distractions (and unlikely to "work out" for the cohorts pushing for them anyways).
You are absolutely correct. We have absolutely no way to produce these fantasies without even further widespread environmental devastation. Think of all the metals that would need to be mined and carbon emitted to get this stuff in orbit. Even if we mine asteroids a colossal amount of resources will need to be spent on spacecraft and machinery to make that possible on a world already facing ecological collapse:
O’Neill cylinders were the template for space colonies in the Mobile Suit Gundam anime, going all the way back to the series premiere in 1979. One of many details which lent the show an air of gritty realism, despite its colorful giant robot fights.
I don't think it makes much sense for us to build earth-like environments in space. It totally negates the benefits of being in a zero-g environment.
I think it is more likely that our biology will be forced to adapt to space than the other way around. I can imagine a future where humans live in individual pods while hooked up to virtual reality systems that can simulate all the necessary needs of the person within the pod, while the pod traverses shared space near lagrange points to collect necessary resources. It'd be a sort of "cell" in a larger multi-cellular collective surrounding our local star; much like endosymbiosis lead to mitochondria when eukaryotes first evolved, humans will merge with machines to become space-faring cellular life.
Alexis Gilliland wrote some really excellent fiction around the counter-rotating cylinders design. "The Revolution from Rosinante", "Long Shot for Rosinante", and "The Pirates of Rosinante", published by Del Rey in '81 and '82. They are still as fresh today as when he wrote them. He got the Campbell award in '82, and the Hugo in 1980, 1983, 1984 and 1985 for fan art.
His Mitusbishi Dragon-Scale Mirror design cannot be ignored.
There’s an under appreciated problem with spinning space stations: they would be set off balance by uneven distribution of weight around the ring. This would make small scale rings a bit problematic because people and stuff need to move around. Rings the size of halo would have enough mass that the movement of people wouldn’t be enough to matter.
In the book/TV series "The Expanse", they actually spin up massive asteroids and live inside tunnels, effectively like a ring but made of rock, to offset the fact that it doesn't have enough gravity otherwise. Neat concept, although will likely end in failure.
An issue with larger rings is that the downforce felt around the ring would vary based on your position within a segment. While it would be a more subtle gradient than a smaller ring, and so less nauseating, it would mean that living and working space would vary in terms of perceived gravity. Another problem is transportation, with the fastest way to cross the ring being across a “spoke” with a gravitational gradient that goes to zero and back. To be fair that could also be a benefit, if people can get used to it.
I really, really do. I’d also like a side of Dyson Swarms, hold the butter. Seriously, how amazing would an O’Neill cylinder be? People live inside, and outside you’d have industries using the vacuum to do things that would cost a fortune on Earth.
Just a teensy little upfront investment is required, but with SpaceX it might not be so crazy someday soon. If the cost per kilo into orbit drops enough, a lot of sci-fi could become real; not the Dyson swarm, but orbital habitats and industries sure could.
I’m almost positive one of those was from National Geographic’s Our Universe. When I was a kid I must have read it a hundred times. The drawings were truly awe inspiring. In fact just googling it and seeing the cover art brought back so many memories.
A book could never mean as much again in this age.
Yes! I loved that book. Many of these pictures are in there for sure. I actually recently got a copy of the book used and in excellent condition. My mother donated most of my books as I outgrew them over the years. My 8 year old daughter recently got interested in space so we read it cover to cover. While dated (and blatantly incorrect in places) it still managed to spark that same awe and wonder in her that it did in me. I’m so glad to have found this copy. Such a great book.
> Was this something they were seriously expecting in the coming years?
I started high school a few months after the last time anyone walked on the moon. If you'd told me then that no-one would ever again walk on the moon in the following fifty years, I'd have told you you were nuts. The general mood in the 1970's was that humankind would start to inhabit space over the following decades, and space colonies like these would be orbiting the Earth. Instead, the only humans publicly known to be in space right now are the 3 aboard the International Space Station.
Until Kennedy radically accelerated the schedule for the first moon landing and set that as a singular goal, the plans for the space program involved almost as much infrastructure building as exploration. Here's a 1955 television program where Wernher von Braun presents an earlier, more complicated plan for a Moon mission, complete with a nuclear-powered toroidal space station: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXIDFx74aSY
That's a great find. A noteworthy (to me) feature was the height of the orbit -- they're at ~1000 miles above the Earth's surface. This indicates that they were unaware of the Van Allen belts, which makes sense, in 1955, no artificial satellites had yet been launched.
Edit: Also noticed the dramatized mission has a "free-return" trajectory, no maneuver required at the moon to get back to Earth.
I suspect no less serious than the various other projects that had concept artwork. Seemed like the 70s and 80s TV news regularly had plans, including an aspirational artist's impression, for a NASA moonbase, orbital ring space station, or Mars mission etc. Couldn't say how serious or not, but serious enough to have made it to UK media back then, fairly regularly. The obvious question after 1972's Apollo 17, was "what's next?".
We got Skylab, the Space Shuttle, lots of fascinating probes to other planets, and satellites themselves of course, but those were rather less "grand" in scope. No doubt budget driven.
To be fair though, if NASA can't dream big, who can? :)
I think they were serious, and very much a product of the malthusian ideas that dominated that era. I remember reading futurist books with these images in the 6th grade in the early 90s.
Back in the 80s and 90s Malthusianism was the dominant thing. Most people believed the global population would keep expanding beyond what the world could sustain giving the impetus for things like space stations and ocean colonies. And population graphs in the 70s and 80s and even the 90s suggested that this was true.
Also in the 70s the idea of the green revolution wasn't fully cemented in the public consciousness. Nobody had any idea that it would double wheat yields between 1970 and today so people were projecting slow linear growth, or worse static farm yields and available resources against a growing population. The projection for the future was a dark one back then, and things like these space stations, along with things like ocean colonies were seen as a desperate way to prevent that fate.
Alas, the graphs from the 2010s continue to suggest that Malthusianism is true. Except that instead of running out of natural resources, we're running out of GHG budget.
Fortunately, nobody seriously believes that wasting trillions of dollars on moving a few people off the Earth is a serious solution to this problem. Unfortunately, nobody is actually pursuing any serious solutions to this problem.
Reasonably serious (for some definitions of "reasonably"). The illustrations were commissioned for a book published by NASA describing a design study on permanent space habitats at L5 creatively called "Space Settlements: A Design Study". I got this book as a kid in the late 70's and it was one of my favorites. I pored over each page oh so carefully for years. The study went into a fair amount of detail about what would be required to support 10,000 people in a stanford torus at L5. Everything from radiation shielding to sewage systems. From construction techniques to creating day-night cycles.
Well, riding on the tails of literally landing on the moon, the future must've looked bright and amazing. It probably would've been if the same amount of work and money continued to pour into the space programs. Space - the final frontier and all.
Yes. In the eighties, we seriously expected that such space habitats might be built in the next few decades. It was a reasonable extrapolation from the rapid progress that had occurred in recent decades.
Hey I'm just thinking this through, but wouldn't you get atmospheric disturbances with a cylinder of not-gigantic size? Air currents that go antispinwise would experience lift due to coriolis effect, while air currents going spinwise would experience a downdraft. Would that not lead to the development of sideways tornadoes? Just a thought.. The ring or cylinder might have to have a really large circumference to avoid those kinds of things.
This artwork reminds me of a book from my childhood, the ‘Usborne Book of the Future’. In addition to being richly illustrated, it predicted a lot of the technology we would have today, as well as described problems society might face in the future.
I actually think a ring or cylinder in space is a more practical idea than colonizing mars, because 1) you can get 1g earth gravity, 2) transportation to any other floating habitat or asteroid in the inner solar system is easy, 3) you have to build some kind of pressurized dome on mars anyway and 4) it’s easier to resupply from earth
People raised in Space are going to wonder what we found so enticing about living dirtside, "Fun to visit, but why anyone lives like that is beyond me. We have perfect weather, a beautiful environment, and we're already halfway to anywhere we want to go."
Slightly related: in Asimov's Robot books, the humans on earth who live in enclosed mega cities (referred to as wombs more than once), struggle to be outside (basically none do go), and wonder why anyone would want to be out there.
Presumably the station would orbit earth, and so you'd just wait until you were over the place you wanted to visit and then head down to earth for a week, and the trip would be the same hassle no matter where you were going!
The view from Cooper Station at the end of the movie _Interstellar_, of a baseball hit out of the park into the window of an upside-down house reminded me of O'Neill space colonies. I don't recall whether this was a cylinder or torus.
to me, colonialization of other planets seem like alchemy of our times. Every basic item is missing in Mars and will people be willing to survive in domes and astronaut type suits for their entire lives? Then there is a matter of what type of meaningful work people will engage in? what type of education to give to kids? Which currency to pay them in? What nationality would they have? Are they a new country?