18 thoughts on “The Space Settlement Enterprise”

  1. Has anyone looked at projecting various O’Neill cylinders or other colony interiors in a VR headset to see what people thought after being visually immersed in them for several hours? That might be something that’s easy to talk up and inexpensive to accomplish if some VR geeks get interested.

      1. Hrm.. Gizmodo article on a VR fly-through of an O’Neill colony. It looks a bit primitive, and I was more interested in the view from the inner surface where you have ground above you instead of sky.

        I suppose another approach would be having a model railroad club build a set on the inner walls of a cylinder and then film it all with a small camera, but that would take a lot of extra work and you’d be committed to the initial layout.

    1. An O’Neill torus would be a less aggressive build and with a true ceiling of light shutters to scatter sunlight reflected off the inner torus of mirrors. So you would not suffer the disorientation of seeing a floor if looking straight up. You would have the illusion of living in a valley.

  2. Imagine launching four tons of hardware to a rotating coming in LEO. Then consider launching one tonne of spare parts along with three tins of propellant with it. Then use the three tonnes of propellant to deliver the one tonne of spare parts to the lunar surface. OK, so for the same launch one can get four times the payload to LEO than the Moon.

    But, since the one tonne payload to the Moon is spare parts keeping a 10-tonne telerobot working which extracts 100 tonnes of metal from the lunar regolith then the launch to the Moon resulted in 25 times more hardware on the surface of the Moon than one gets at LEO. Sure there are other factors to take into account but my point is that, going to where the resources are may make more sense than just going to where is close.

      1. Turner’s comment was about O’Neillian colonies and the Space Settlement Enterprise conference’s agenda is heavy on O’Neill’s orbiting settlement vision. I was just pointing out how much more expensive it is to launch everything to LEO where there are no resources compared to launching to the lunar surface where the hardware can be used to leverage the production of much more hardware. Too many people hold the view that, just because LEO is closer, it must be cheaper and so we should start there.

  3. DougSpace, I concur. I think if things like O’Neill colonies are ever built, it’ll be in faraway places where resources are being exploited in a massive way. For example, I could imagine an O’Neill colony in the Saturn system. Robotics or no robotics, there will be people with jobs out there, and they’re not going to want to live on Titan, or on a chunk of ice with 0.00008g surface gravity. We’re talking next century, at least, when the pipeline effect from Saturn will be meaningful.

    1. To build an O’Neill type colony, I always thought there has to be some type of revolution in automated manufacturing. Such as completely robotic factory being sent to a resource-rich environment and the factory, at least, must being able to create n-times more factories. Perhaps some critical components such as advanced computer chips could be supplied from the outside, but 99.999% of what is built must come from in-situ resources. Creating such advanced robotics must be easier than trying to keep a 10,000+ person workforce of humans alive in space while a colony is being built — whether it is Earth orbit or out among the Jovian planet systems.

      1. mpthompson, Whereas I generally agree that automated manufacturing is key to establishing any settlement, I think that thought should be give to expandable approaches. By that I mean either inflatable modules or the flat-packed approach where dense payloads with walls and whatnot packed tightly and designed for easy (e.g. Archinaut) assembly.

    2. Thanks for agreeing but…unfortunately I have to disagree with you. Whereas (E)LEO has essentially no material resources, those can be imported using an automated grab-and-bag approach to bringing NEAs to the Earth-Moon system. And also mass drivers can shoot a lot of material up to cis-lunar space. The proximity of an (E)LEO tourist hotel –> settlement to Earth markets argue strongly for development there before the Saturn system.

      However, with the failure of two asteroid mining companies, I think it far more likely that a permanent lunar foothold will be established first and that that will be the basis for the development of the first settlement with local resources (#1 polar ice & organics, #2 regolith shielding, #3 metals, #4 glass, #5 silicon for solar cells).

      1. Well, there’s a lot of math about tradeoffs between the source of the material and the delivery systems (delta V, chemical rockets vs. solar ion vs. mass drivers) and the vastly lessened shielding requirements underneath the Van Allen belts. Then there’s crew supply, crew rotation, and what kind of market develops.

        I’m not too worried anymore about coming up with the optimal plan because lowered launch costs and massive private sector involvement will make various business cases, try them, and see what works.

        We us to try an advance our best ideas to convince relevant interests that space development was a worthwhile goal, but as capabilities catch up with dreams, a wide variety of groups will likely pursue a variety of development projects and we’ll end up putting all sorts of different habitats in all sorts of different places, plus that oddball Lunar Gateway that’ll just be floating around out there like a run-down roadside attraction.

  4. That’s okay, I think I’m right and everyone else is wrong, and that time will prove me right. On the other hand, Jerry Pournelle and I had a 20+ year argument about the viability of private spaceflight, but time proved him right and me wrong. Part of why I was wrong was, I didn’t anticipate the rise of Elon Musk. I conceded victory to Jerry on Sept. 28, 2008. But he didn’t anticipate Musk either. He seemed to think OSC was proof of concept. And now it’s absorbed in OldSpace. I wish he was still alive so we could chat about recent events.

  5. I think things like O’Neill colonies might make sense in some remote environments. But over the Earth at the Lagrange points? Unless it becomes some sort of exotic vista or something I do not see that. I could see someone wanting to live on a colony where there is a view of the Earth though. Also, we simply lack the economies and technology to make anything large enough. Just look at the ISS.

    What we need to work is on ISRU and orbital depots. I still remember the plans for unmanned tenders and orbital tugs for Space Station Freedom.

  6. On a belated note about how poorly educated journalists are, here’s an article from the UK Independent.

    Elon Musk’s SpaceX has applied to test its Starship spacecraft in orbital flight, marking significant progress towards a manned flight to Mars.

    The sleek Starship will fly to an altitude of 22.5km before landing on the same launch pad it will use to take off, according to a new filing with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

    It’s one of those atmospheric straight up and down orbits?

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