What Ever Happened to Space Colonies?


There’s a very interesting article up at The Space Review, taking a look at the optimistic view of the future of space exploration that people had in the 70s and discussing why it never caught on. Where are the space colonies depicted in movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey? Go read the article to find out. Here’s a sample:

Asimov’s article, “The Next Frontier?” and illustrated by Pierre Mion, was written as a first-person account of a visit to an L-5 colony in the far-distant future of 2026. The account is mostly description: the National Geographic reporter is met by the colony’s director George Fenton, who shows him around and explains how everything works. Asimov experiences the gradual onset of simulated gravity as he travels from the arrival hub down a spoke to the colony’s rim. The colony is nearly 1,800 meters in diameter and houses 10,000 people.

Fenton shows him the farms and the industrial areas. He introduces the reporter to a rabbit meat hot dog and goat milk shake. He explains how the population is majority male, but they do have women, and families, and even a thousand children on the station. He shows the reporter a residential area and explains that the streets curve back and forth so that you cannot see them end and become disoriented. Fenton explains how the six segments of the torus are separated by airlocks in case of emergency. The colony is not completely self-contained but is working on it. They still import things from Earth, but most of their raw materials come from the Moon. And of course they recycle everything that they can; the reporter declines Fenton’s offer to tour the sewage plant.

Then of course there is the explanation of how all of this is possible. The manufacturing of solar power stations to supply Earth is a major economic driver, but “old news” according to Fenton. Instead, their newest industry is the growing of crystals and the manufacture of microcomputer circuitry. But, Fenton adds, for a long time to come the primary activity of the colonists will be building other colonies. Asimov adds that it will be a long time, if ever, before the population of the colonies exceeds the population of Earth.

Explore posts in the same categories: Humans in Space, Science Fiction

5 Comments on “What Ever Happened to Space Colonies?”

  1. kara gnome Says:

    Sad, isn’t it? And in the 70s, living in space colonies was pretty far out the technology available, and it seems that the closer we are to really having the tech, the more people don’t think large like this.

    We’re a species of opposites, you know?

    What do you think? Should we be clamoring to *go!*?

  2. Ryan Says:

    I think we should be doing more to make it commercially viable to go into space. Once someone figures out how to turn a profit in space, nobody will be able to stop people from going.

    That’s going to be difficult though because in most cases, there’s going to be a huge initial investment with no guarantee of a return. Ideally, government programs should be pushing the boundaries and finding out what’s possible, and then turning things over to private industry to make it affordable and profitable.

    I think the most promising avenue for making money in space (other than launching satellites) is going to be space-based solar power, but that still has the prohibitive cost of launching so much stuff into orbit.

  3. valhalla Says:

    The first people to colonize space will be religious fanatics escaping persecution.

    Then criminals. Then people looking for work.

  4. David B Says:

    Because of the U.S. regulatory environment, space under ITAR, and approvals for space flights, the first civilian space colony is very unlikely to be U.S. flagged. the united states is unlikely to go beyond small orbital craft on the private enterprise side, especially since the U.S. is increasingly stepping away from a free market economy and heading towards a facist nation. If the U.S. actually puts a colony in space, it will be a government facility, only surviving as long as vast sums of govt money is poured into it. A true self supporting space colony needs industry, free markets, families, schools, playgrounds, and of course private ownership of lands and spaces within the colony and people owning their homes, apartments, small businesses, etc– a concept that the U.S. govt no longer embraces or understands.

    • neither does the “free market” when it is so huge and monopolized that big businesses come in and stifle small businesses from even developing because people blow out the real reason for government by calling it fascist when they are trying to protect the peoples interest from out of control mega corporations that are protected by people that have more loyalty to a name brand than their own country.

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