The Space Settlement Art Gallery
This is a solar-powered mass-driver, an electromagnetic linear
accelerator. It can be utilized as a reaction engine which can use
literally anything for fuel (even ground-up chunks of Space Shuttle
External Tanks). The mass-driver has been assembled from components
lifted by several shuttle flights, and soon will be ready to begin hauling
cargo for a small moon base to lunar orbit.
Here, a lunar shuttle soft-lands cargo for the moon base onto the surface.
The cargo includes small habitats, solar arrays, mining equipment, and components
for the assembly of another mass-driver on the surface. This mass-driver
will be used as a catapult to launch lunar ores to a point in space where
they can be collected.
A Solar Power Satellite (SPS) with a thoroughly-energized Earth in the
background. One of the first things we will begin doing once we are
using space resources is constructing a SPS, a vast solar array which gathers
the constant solar power in orbit and beams energy to Earth in the form of
a safe, low-density microwave beam.
On Earth, the beam is intercepted by a rectenna several miles across, where
it is converted back into electricity. The electricity is then rectified
to AC, and fed into the power grid. The goal is to undersell power
generated by fossil fuels or nuclear energy.
The rectennas will be huge, but the land underneath need not go to waste.
Since the array absorbs the microwaves, but allows sunlight and rainfall
through, the land could be used for farming or ranching. Or, as in
this case, the rectenna could be built as a vast set of greenhouses, feeding
Here, a manned expedition to an Earth-approaching asteroid has set up a
mass-driver engine. The mass-driver used chunks of asteroidal material
as reaction mass to propel the asteroid to a stable High Earth Orbit where
it can be mined for its minerals. Asteroids can provide vital elements
which the Moon may lack, making orbital industries increasingly independent
Once space industries have become profitable, it is likely that some of the industrial output will be turned to the task of building the first space settlement. Behind the SPS nearing completion is a Stanford Torus space habitat. It spins on its axis like a bicycle wheel so that centrifugal force can serve as an artificial gravity.
The habitat is solar-powered. The oval-shaped mirror above reflects
sunlight down onto mirrors mounted on the spokes which in turn reflect it
into the interior of the habitat. The long tunnel at the axis leads
to a space factory.
Here we can get a good view of the radiation shield surrounding the habitat. The shield is a non-rotating outer shell, and is composed of about six feet thickness of the slag left over from the ore-refining operation. This amount of shielding reduces the cosmic-ray radiation inside the habitat to levels no higher than those found in any Earthly community.
Technicians monitor crop yields in the agricultural area. The "growing season" in separate sections can be staggered, ensuring fresh fruits and vegetables for the space settlers year-round. Those crop plants which can tolerate 24-hour-a-day sunlight can have it. Agriculture in space will benefit greatly from weather control, and from the absence of pests.
With abundant sunlight freely available, climates comparable to those of
Hawaii or Southern California would be possible. With the right kind
of engineering and landscaping, most of the recreational activities we enjoy
here on Earth should be possible in space settlements.
A view through one of the three windows of the habitat. Four miles
of atmosphere is sufficient depth to result in blue skies overhead.
Cloud banks would form at the same level they do on Earth, and there would
be natural rainfall.
Space settlers witness a rare event: the eclipsing of the sun by the
Earth. This would be an uncommon occurrence. In a sufficiently-high
Earth orbit, a habitat would be in continuous sunlight well over 99% of the
time, much to the benefit of its solar-powered industries and electrical
utilities. As solar power in space is a constant, reliable source of
cheap, clean energy, the standard of living in the orbital settlements is
expected to be correspondingly high.
The mirrors shift to bring the fall of night to a space habitat. Pity
the poor artist at the lower right. He just can't seem to get
inspired. There's nothing particularly extraordinary about the scenery!
Gerard K. O'Neill, father of the space settlement concept. The model
on the desk is a Bernal Sphere, minus the mirrors.
What the heck is he doing with those pens?