The Creation of Free Settlements

This section will contain information useful to those who wisth to build future extraterrestrial settlements, whether those interests are in the engineering, the funding, earth based examples, or political structures. If you have any data or documents that you feel would be suitable, please pass them on and we'll convert them to html if they aren't already.

Learning from Terra

We recommend that you take a long and close look at Oceania - The Atlantis Project, since the success of their venture would bode very well for those interested in free settlements in space. Although they will not have to deal with the life support systems and transportation costs that affect a space settlement, they will have to deal with and solve the problems of funding; of creating a nation where the very ground must be engineered; and all the myriad political problems that will be created by a world full of powerful unfree states.

Possibly one of the most likely ventures to succeed is the Freedom Ship Project. The idea of building a very large ship of 24,000 high priced Condominiums is one that financial markets can handle. It's a combination Real Estate and Shipping deal, although with a price tag at the upper end of such projects. According to Wired it may be flying an Irish flag while it circumnavigates the globe every two years. Freedom ship rates high on liberty as well. They state that "There will be no intrusion into, or involvement with, personal business, finances, or commercial transactions." Only food sanitation would be regulated. Tax and duty free business are encouraged. They avoid some of the potential problems of Oceania by mobility. If the neighbors to the international waters they stay within become threatening to liberty... they move elsewhere and don't come back.

Another interesting project is the First Millennial Foundation. It is initially ocean based, but has space settlement as its' ultimate goal. Marshall Savage's concept is to bootstrap from the seas to space by starting with the construction of ocean thermal power generators.

The League of New Worlds is an international organization committed to exploration and colonization of space and the seafloor. It offers real hands-on exploration opportunities to its members as well as a world class Space Academy for formal member training.

Antarctic research stations are often cited as a source of data on the social dynamics of life in isolated artificial environments. You can take a peek at THE NEW SOUTH POLAR TIMES for ongoing, first-hand account of life at the South Pole from Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

Space settlements will have to be very frugal with their material resources. One might take a look at earthly recycling efforts, such as the Home Page of Global Recycling Network.

Stations and Business Parks

There will be research outposts and business parks in orbit before we see true extraterrestrial settlements - an economy must be built to a bare minimum bootstrap point before people can simply pick up and GO! because they want to.

One concept for flexible space business parks is of interest because it emphasizes structuring facilities to be able to expand as commercial requirements dictate (see Space Station "DNA"). Whether this particular concept is viable or not, the point that it makes is well taken - a business park in space must supply basic services to attract customers; customer space has to be easily customizable; the facility must be able to start from a minimal (in the sense of capital investment) configuration and grow as the base of paying customers grows.

Colonies in Free Space

One of the most important sources for information on Space Settlement is the Space Studies Institute, founded by Dr. Gerard O'Neill. SSI has been in the vanguard of critical research that relates to opening up the O'Neill scenario for the creation of L5 Colonies. Donations to the research projects of this organization are highly recommended.

Al Globus at NASA has a Space Colonization Bibliography with most of the important references on the L5 concept. His Space Colonization page is an excellent resources.

We have included many of the images from the 1975 (Space Settlements, A Design Study, NASA SP-413) and 1977 Summer Studies (Space Resources and Space Settlements, NASA SP-428) and others. These design studies brought together many of the founders of the space movement and were the birth of current ideas on large free space settlements. They were also the direct cause for the birth of the L5 Society which formally merged with the National Space Institute to form the National Space Society during the 6th ISDC in Pittsburgh in March 1987.

O'Neill Cylinders - Island Three

O'Neill Cylinders come in contra-rotating pairs to cancel torque. This pair appear in the 1975 study as a front to chapter 7. View to the Future. Visiting spaceships dock at the center of one of the hubs.

Looking along the axis of rotation from inside an O'Neill Cylinder we see three habitation strips alternated with three windows. The windows do not allow direct sunlight. Light is reflected from mirrors into the interior. The cylinder sits with one hub pointed so that a maximum shielding affect is gained in the direction of maximum solar storm flux. The axis is at zero gravity and could be used for human powered flight, zero g sports or whatever your imagination allows.

Once it is possible to build one colony, many will be built. This image shows numerous pairs of cylinders. The whole point of space settlements is diversity. Each colony can be a different world without a totally different society. And if there is trouble with the neighbors - you just move. Note that opened wings used to reflect sun light into the interior through the three window strips. The "bicycle wheel" holds solar thermal generators on its' rim.

O'Neill cylinders can be quite large. This artist's conception includes the San Francisco Bay bridge and the surrounding area to give a sense of scale. The view point is from up in the "mountains" at the hub farthest from the sun. A few people and houses are visible in the foreground. At the top you can see some of a wing mirror and the backs of solar thermal generators as you look out the "sky" window in the sunwards direction.

Settlements can be so large that they form their own cylindrical weather systems around the axis. This disconcerting view is down the length of a colony cylinder from a bit below the rotation axis. There is no reason why such settlements can not be gardens or wilderness if their inhabitants so desire. When construction on this scale becomes possible, the ability to use energy and matter will be well beyond present financial capabilities and will most likely require molecular engineering.

A Norwegian student suggested a architecture modification to the baseline O'Neill Cylinder design in Space Tech Digest v18no211. The concept is to make the window areas concave inwards so that pressure puts them under compressive load.

The Stanford Torus

The Stanford Torus is the second class of space settlement and is much more like the classical space station concept writ large. The shielding consists of rock and soil on the outer rim. An inner torus rotates inside of this. The wheel stays edge on to the direction of maximum hazard from solar storms. Sunlight is reflected from a mirror seen above the wheel. The inside rim is a a window. Visiting spaceships dock at the hub in the middle of the wheel, just as in 2001.

This view is similar but shows other Stanford Torus', a spaceship for scale, and in the far distance at bottom right, an under-construction Solar Power Satellite. This view of the torus shows more clearly the inner ring of mirrors. Sunlight reflects from the large mirror to the ring on the torus, and from there outwards (down to the gravitationally challenged) through the window on the settlement's inner rim. The long tethers connect the settlement to a nuclear power plant and radiators.




The Bernal Sphere - Island One







Lunar Settlements

The Clementine project of the BMDO was the first spacecraft to do lunar survey work in a generation. During the lunar mission phase it took 1.8 million images, and all of them and their associated data are, or will eventually be, available through the Lunar Image Browser on the Clementine page at the Naval Research Laboratory. This should be a truly major resource for settlement and mining studies. Images can be retrieved by specifiying the sensor, the date and the lunar coordinates - or by clicking on the desired location on a global map (70N - 70S).

AvWeek 6-Mar-95, p18 announced NASA's intent to "place a simple, economical spacecraft in orbit around the moon in July, 1997." It will map the lunar chemical composition and will give us the long awaited Gamma Ray Spectrometer data. This will give us the long awaited yea or nay on lunar polar ice deposits.

The Artemis Project is working on a plan to colonize the moon using a self bootstrapping commercial program. They plan to utilize movie rights, pet moon rocks and any other bit of crass commercialism they can think of. If it buys us our tickets off this rock - who cares? Read The Artemis Project FAQ for more information on the idea and on how to get involved.

Artemis was recently featured in an article in the Dallas Morning News - 950313 written by Dallas Morning News Staff writer Jeffrey Weiss.

Luna 2001 is a proposal for going back to the moon using a mix of existing hardware and low risk new hardware development.

Degradation of the Lunar Vacuum by a Moon Base is a paper by Geof Landis that discusses the impact of a 20 person lunar base on the ambient pressure.

Here is one of the Lunar poles.

Mars Settlements

Perhaps the most exciting thing that has happened in a very long time is the possible fossil evidence found in meteorites of martian origin. If the NASA/Stanford results pass muster in the literature, we will know it is very unlikely that we are the sole intelligence in the galaxy.

There will also be a very strong desire on the part of the scientific community to gather more evidence. There is very little else that could make the idea of a journey to Mars as likely a near term possibility as the firm knowledge that primitive alien life forms once existed there.

If you are interested in Mars Settlements, you might want to look at the existing image database via NASA's Mars Atlas web site. There is more information on the Malin Space Science Systems Home Page under Mars - Color and High Resolution Viking Lander Images. Within this document you should note in particular Mike Caplinger's writeup for the Planetary Society's MARSLINK project, about the Viking Lander imaging system (which includes a red/blue anaglyph of a portion of the VL-2 site, and the Viking lander surface images.

The Center for Mars Exploration at NASA is also worth monitoring on a regular basis.

One of the most interesting recent proposals for Mars colonization has been Robert Zubrin's Mars Direct Proposal. Try the Mars Direct Bibliography.

These two images give a good overview of the Martian globe: one and two

The upcoming Mars Pathfinder mission exemplifies a number of useful technologies as well as being exactly the sort of precursor mission that is needed prior to the first stages of colonization.

Related Technology Developments


AGENCIES FORM JOINT PROGRAM IN PLANT BIOLOGY (NASA 94-213). Work on engineering food plants for adverse growth conditions has obvious applications.

Airbags for Landing

Mars Pathfinder will use some novel means for softlanding, including the use of airbags to soften the impact. Creative ideas like this save on mission cost and allow more to be done with the available resources.

Autonomous Systems

The EUVE project has broken new ground in autonomous spacecraft with its' Eworks project. It is an expert system for monitoring an operational spacecraft and taking actions to keep it functioning in emergency circumstances. This sort of autonomy will soon be extended to other spacecraft and will certainly be part of the available background technology for space systems relevent to space settlements. We have some of the papers stored locally. You can read the Phase I. Development Status Report (8/11/94) as a postscript document or as a sort of html-ified text document.

Other work on automation of spacecraft systems is being done by JPL - they have a system under test that applies Virtual reality concepts to systems monitoring.

For an idea of how far automation could go, you might try D.M. Amon, "The Impact of Molecular Engineering on Spacecraft Information Systems", Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Aug 1994.


Ken Jenks at NASA provides a great deal of data on human's in space. Of special interest is " How long can a human live unprotected in space?" which discusses the effects of human exposure to vacuum. Ken tells an anecdote of great interest: direct exposure has already happened - and with very little after effect:

"At NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center (now renamed Johnson Space Center) we had a test subject accidentally exposed to a near vacuum (< 1 psi) in an incident involving a leaking space suit in a vacuum chamber back in '65. He remained concious for about 14 seconds, which is about the time it takes for O2 deprived blood to go from the lungs to the brain. The suit probably did not reach a hard vacuum, and we began repressurizing the chamber within 15 seconds. The subject regained conciousness at around 15,000 feet equivalent altitude. The subject later reported that he could feel and hear the air leaking out, and his last concious memory was of the water on his tongue beginning to boil."
More information on this event can be found in NASA CR-1223, "Rapid (Explosive) Decompression Emergencies in Pressure-Suited Subjects", by E.M. Roth.

Ken Jenks has also published a good summary of the Bone Demineralization problem. He also maintains his own page on the subject.

A new book from NASA is also of interest:

    Designing For Human Presence in Space: An Introduction to
    Environmental Control and Life Support Systems,
    NASA Reference Publication 1324, Paul O. Wieland,
    George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama, 1994.

NASA and the National Library of Medicine have made available on the Internet a jointly developed database of space life sciences research dating from 1961 to the present. There is a nominal fee for use of this service. More information is available in NASA Internet Advisory 95-17.

NASA has a database of life sciences information on line. This contains "30 years of space-based research into the effects of microgravity on living systems, including the human body".

Radiation Shielding

In most environments beyond Earth surface, long term settlement requires some form of shielding. This will particular be true of interplanetary spacecraft and L5 colonies. Magnetic shielding is on possible approach and is discussed by Geof Landis in Magnetic Radiation Shielding: An Idea Whose Time Has Returned?,

Solar Power Satellites

Although Solar Power Satellites are a potential revenue source large enough to support L5 settlements, it is difficult to bootstrap into that magical world where the two exist. In "An Evolutionary Path to SPS", Geof Landis suggests a way forward with SPS's.

Teleoperated Systems

Dave Stephenson supplied a Comment on " Teleoperated Load/Haul/Dump Vehicles at Sudbury (941294)." Many do not realize that teleoperated vehicles are already being used in commercial large scale mining operations in a Terran crater. David has also kindly supplied the start of a bibliography on mining automation.

There will soon be a test of a Russian Marskokhod at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This Rover is capable of both lunar and martian operations and is marketed by Lavochkin.

Mars Pathfinder's rover will be the first of it's kind on Mars and the first remotely controlled rover since Lunekhod in the early 1970's.

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