Toroidal colonies

In the summer of 1975, when space exploration was still ever so young, NASA Ames Research Center and Stanford University put on their thinking caps regarding potential space settlements. That brainstorming summit produced the 1975 NASA Summer Study, which envisioned what life in space might look like. The focus was on orbiting spaceships, and the result was a document called "Space settlements: A design study."

In the forward, then-NASA Administrator James Fletcher called the study a big-picture question for humankind: "To assess the human and economic implications as well as technical feasibility, the participants in this effort have provided us with a vision that will engage our imagination and stretch our minds."

Here, for example, is a cutaway view of ring-shaped "toroidal colonies," exposing the interior. Click on for more illustrations from the study.
Photo by: Rick Guidice/NASA

Inside a Toroidal colony

A view from inside a toroidal colony showing housing, bodies of water, and lush green grass.
Photo by: Don Davis/NASA

Stanford torus

The Stanford torus, seen here, was a proposed design for a giant ring-shaped space habitat capable of housing 10,000 to 140,000 permanent residents.
Photo by: Don Davis/NASA

Island One

Princeton physicist Gerard O'Neill proposed this modified Bernal sphere, which he called "Island One." It would have a diameter of only 500 meters spinning at 1.9 rpm to produce full Earth artificial gravity at the sphere's equator.

Photo by: Rick Guidice/NASA

Bernal sphere exterior

An exterior view of the "Island One," a modified Bernal sphere.
Photo by: Rick Guidice/NASA

Bernal sphere interior

The interior of O'Neill's Bernal sphere would resemble a lush valley running all the way around the equator of the sphere, capable of providing living and recreation space for a population of about 10,000 people, with a "crystal palace" habitat used for agriculture. The form of a sphere was chosen for its optimum ability to contain air pressure and its optimum mass-efficiency at providing radiation shielding.
Photo by: Rick Guidice/NASA

Bernal sphere agricultural moduls

A view of the agricultural modules of a O'Neill's Island One, a modified Bernal sphere.
Photo by: Rick Guidice/NASA

The interior of a Bernal Sphere

The interior of a Bernal Sphere space colony, capable of sustaining about 10,000 people.
Photo by: Rick Guidice/NASA

Multiple two-cylinder colonies

An artist's rendition of multiple two-cylinder colonies aimed toward the sun.
Photo by: Rick Guidice/NASA

Exterior view of double-cylinder colony

An exterior view of a double-cylinder colony, a living space city concept capable of housing 1 million people.
Photo by: Rick Guidice/NASA

Interior view of cylindrical space colony

An interior view of a cylindrical space colony looking out through large windows.
Photo by: Rick Guidice/NASA

Inside a cylindrical space colony

A view of the inside of a cylindrical space colony with vegetation and interior atmosphere.
Photo by: Don Davis/NASA

Cylindrical colonies

A view of an end-cap of one of the cylindrical space colonies, showing a suspension bridge over a large body of water and a family picnicking on a green hillside.
Photo by: Don Davis/NASA


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