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The idea of people living in space was a classic dream of the early space race, large habitats filled with people, veritable space based arks. Today the reality is a bare handful of individuals living in space and being rotated in and out, the International Space Station is a feat of engineering and scientific discovery, but it is a far cry from the illustrations of the past. However, some people believe this future may be as little as 20 years away.
Author Jerry Stone (author of One Small Step) has done research and believes humanity is very close to being able to build orbital habitats on a larger and grander scale. The idea is intimidating to some, and some will say it is downright unpleasant, having to imagine living in a metal tube beyond the influence of Earths gravity and environment, but Mr. Stone believes orbital environments may be far better for humans than the Earth.
Orbital colonies no more than 20 years away?
Mr. Stone believes that the first space colonists would most likely end up on the Moon, returning to the site of humanity’s first off planet landing to construct and maintain vast solar arrays, capturing the unfiltered rays from the sun and beaming them down to the Earth as a form of cheap renewable energy. This, however, is simply the first step in the complex project, other businesses would need to have a presence in space to take advantage of this huge untapped power supply unfiltered and allow the construction of even bigger projects using materials found either on the moon or perhaps captive asteroids.
In an interview, Mr. Stone intimated that back in the 1970’s research was carried out on the feasibility of space habitats using only the technology of the time; these studies made some possible designs which would have been buildable at the time but would have been incredibly expensive to construct. Using modern technology, he believes that construction would be significantly cheaper and more advanced.
Mr. Stone also mentions some of the other possible benefits of these space-based habitats,
“Do they need to rotate to give 1G? How about 0.9G or 0.8G? That would mean less stress on the structure and less stress on the inhabitants, They would probably live longer. And over longer periods of time, the inhabitants would be taller than those on Earth.”
The information that all of this is possible within the next two decades is extremely exciting, personally, I look forward to furthering exploration and even exploitation of space. Humanity shows no signs of slowing its growth and our resources, while vast, are limited to this planet, being able to set up space based stations for the harvesting of raw resources as well as allowing people to live in space, easing future population issues is invaluable.
Perhaps it won’t be within the next twenty years but as both our technology and our population expands the expense of setting up such stations starts to look much more palatable.