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Free Space

That's the technical term for everyplace outside the Earth's atmosphere.   It's a political term.   From now on It's a political reality.

Twenty-five pages of this issue are devoted to design details of Space Colony development as worked out by physicist Gerard O'Neill and colleagues.   So far no one has successfully challenged the scale, the engineering, the budget, or the schedule of the scheme.

You are invited to find the fatal flaw, or to participate in the design and speculation.
One speculation I would make is to anticipate something like what happened in Europe when America was being colonized.   Intellectual ferment.
 
New lands meant new possibilities; new possibilities meant new ideas. If you can try things, you think up things to try.

Give your imagination a Space Colony of 1,000,000 inhabitants, each of whom has five acres of land. Know that it's readily possible — maybe inevitable — by 2000 AD.   Any thoughts about how to organize its economy, politics, weather, land use, education, ' culture?

O'Neill notes that the ends of the enormous rotating cylinders could be mountain ranges, with the interesting property that as you climb higher your weight decreases.  Near the top, at.lg (1/10 of Earth gravity) you can don wings and take flight.   Or you may want to take a long slow plunge into a swimming pool.   Or watch someone else's slow-motion splash.   At the foot of the mountains you might have a round river, allowing you to canoe downstream several miles past the other two "valleys" and back to your home.

O'Neill expects that the colonies, once they begin to proliferate, would make themselves as appealing as possible to attract immigrants from Earth.   Since the cylinders are big enough to have blue skies and weather, you might design a cylinder pair to have a Hawaiian climate in one and New England in the other, with the usual traffic of surf boards and skis between them (travel in Space is CHEAP — no gravity, no friction).

In all this there are some important distinctions from the experience of colonizing North America. One is the absence of natives — no conquering, no exploitation, no guilt this time.   Warfare in general may be obsolete in Space.    There is too vastly much free energy, materials, parking Space, and access — thousands of times what is on Earth — to be worth fighting over any part of it.

Free Space becomes what the oceans have ceased to be — the outlaw area, too big and dilute for national control.

Curious premonitions of all this are already under way.   Grade-school children, I'm told by teachers, have been assuming for years that they would be living in Space.   Russia and America have had Space programs all their lives.

In Russian-U.S. relations something funny is going on.   One of the reasons (insiders tell me) that Kennedy gave the big push to Apollo - "We will land a man on the moon in this decade" — was economic.   Missile development had peaked and we needed to keep those engineers employed.   Last month America and Russia staged a joint space effort with the Apollo-Soyuz that seemed scientifically and even politically pointless.   It is until you notice that the U.S. Space Shuttle program has lots of vehicles and little payload planned, and the Russian program has an ambitious Space station and no vehicles in the works.   Both are counting on cooperation that the respective governments haven't acknowledged or possibly even expected yet.

When the cooperation becomes operational, what happens, to the Arms Race?   Every economic and political reason for it moves over to Space Colonies. There's a common ecological sequence from intimate competition to obligate mutualism.

The next steps now are mostly political.   As Space Colonies becomes a generic subject — something that everyone knows about and has an opinion on, like Civil Rights, Women's Lib, Inflation — then it becomes part of political campaigns.   Once a President or a Congress get into office with Space Colonies in their platform, or get the fever while they're in office, only then does the 15-year construction begin.
I think the voters will be interested enough to approve the requisite $100 billion, one-tenth the cost of Project Independence; 10 times the return in energy alone).  

Space Colonies show promise of being able to solve, in order, the Energy Crisis, the Food Crisis, the Arms Race, and the Population Problem.   Space Colonies are exciting — more interesting than war these days.   And whether you like them or hate them, there's reason to support them.

I spoke at length about the Space Colonies to a gathering of 70 soft-tech freaks at Goddard College this summer.    The subject polarized them hard. About two-thirds were disbelieving and resentful — not happy that I had taken away the Apocalypse they were organizing their self-discipline around. But they liked the idea that high technology and technologists and accompanying hazards might be sent off the Earth, out of our atmosphere.   "Good riddance."

The other third was electrified at the possibilities, personal possibilities.   "If we can get involved in the design now, maybe humankind could walk gently in the Universe."
Both critics and enthusiasts noted that Space Colonies could make terrible mistakes and not threaten Earth — they are separate systems — and that Earth could somehow blow it and perish but life would continue in Space.

That's the technical term for everyplace outside the Earth's atmosphere.   It's a political term.   From now on It's a political reality.

Twenty-five pages of this issue are devoted to design details of Space Colony development as worked out by physicist Gerard O'Neill and colleagues.   So far no one has successfully challenged the scale, the engineering, the budget, or the schedule of the scheme.

You are invited to find the fatal flaw, or to participate in the design and speculation.
One speculation I would make is to anticipate something like what happened in Europe when America was being colonized.   Intellectual ferment.
 
New lands meant new possibilities; new possibilities meant new ideas. If you can try things, you think up things to try.

Give your imagination a Space Colony of 1,000,000 inhabitants, each of whom has five acres of land. Know that it's readily possible — maybe inevitable — by 2000 AD.   Any thoughts about how to organize its economy, politics, weather, land use, education, ' culture?

O'Neill notes that the ends of the enormous rotating cylinders could be mountain ranges, with the interesting property that as you climb higher your weight decreases.  Near the top, at.lg (1/10 of Earth gravity) you can don wings and take flight.   Or you may want to take a long slow plunge into a swimming pool.   Or watch someone else's slow-motion splash.   At the foot of the mountains you might have a round river, allowing you to canoe downstream several miles past the other two "valleys" and back to your home.

O'Neill expects that the colonies, once they begin to proliferate, would make themselves as appealing as possible to attract immigrants from Earth.   Since the cylinders are big enough to have blue skies and weather, you might design a cylinder pair to have a Hawaiian climate in one and New England in the other, with the usual traffic of surf boards and skis between them (travel in Space is CHEAP — no gravity, no friction).

In all this there are some important distinctions from the experience of colonizing North America. One is the absence of natives — no conquering, no exploitation, no guilt this time.   Warfare in general may be obsolete in Space.    There is too vastly much free energy, materials, parking Space, and access — thousands of times what is on Earth — to be worth fighting over any part of it.

Free Space becomes what the oceans have ceased to be — the outlaw area, too big and dilute for national control.

Curious premonitions of all this are already under way.   Grade-school children, I'm told by teachers, have been assuming for years that they would be living in Space.   Russia and America have had Space programs all their lives.

In Russian-U.S. relations something funny is going on.   One of the reasons (insiders tell me) that Kennedy gave the big push to Apollo - "We will land a man on the moon in this decade" — was economic.   Missile development had peaked and we needed to keep those engineers employed.   Last month America and Russia staged a joint space effort with the Apollo-Soyuz that seemed scientifically and even politically pointless.   It is until you notice that the U.S. Space Shuttle program has lots of vehicles and little payload planned, and the Russian program has an ambitious Space station and no vehicles in the works.   Both are counting on cooperation that the respective governments haven't acknowledged or possibly even expected yet.
When the cooperation becomes operational, what happens, to the Arms Race?   Every economic and political reason for it moves over to Space Colonies. There's a common ecological sequence from intimate competition to obligate mutualism.

The next steps now are mostly political.   As Space Colonies becomes a generic subject — something that everyone knows about and has an opinion on, like Civil Rights, Women's Lib, Inflation — then it becomes part of political campaigns.   Once a President or a Congress get into office with Space Colonies in their platform, or get the fever while they're in office, only then does the 15-year construction begin.
I think the voters will be interested enough to approve the requisite $100 billion (one-tenth the cost of Project Independence; 10 times the return in energy alone).  

Space Colonies show promise of being able to solve, in order, the Energy Crisis, the Food Crisis, the Arms Race, and the Population Problem.   Space Colonies are exciting — more interesting than war these days.   And whether you like them or hate them, there's reason to support them.

I spoke at length about the Space Colonies to a gathering of 70 soft-tech freaks at Goddard College this summer.    The subject polarized them hard. About two-thirds were disbelieving and resentful — not happy that I had taken away the Apocalypse they were organizing their self-discipline around. But they liked the idea that high technology and technologists and accompanying hazards might be sent off the Earth, out of our atmosphere.   "Good riddance."

The other third was electrified at the possibilities, personal possibilities.   "If we can get involved in the design now, maybe humankind could walk gently in the Universe."
Both critics and enthusiasts noted that Space Colonies could make terrible mistakes and not threaten Earth — they are separate systems — and that Earth could somehow blow it and perish but life would continue in Space.

My own conviction is that both the idea and reality of Space Colonies serve the realization of cultural/biological balance on Earth — exactly as the photographs of Earth from Space served the Ecology Movement.  Space is part of the wildness in which lies "the preservation of the world."

Think for a while about cows and fences and grazing.   The grass IS greener on the other side
of the fence.

Think for a while about cows and fences and grazing.   The grass IS greener on the other side of the fence.