At the peak of the space race between the USSR and the USA, the space agencies of both countries conducted secret developments on the creation of permanent space colonies in orbit around our planet and beyond. In 1975, the Ames Research Center of the Aerospace Agency of NASA invited for 10 weeks 19 professors of Stanford University so that they not only developed a plan for building an inhabited space colony, but also resolved the question of self-provision of such a station so that it could be a permanent space outpost. For the research team, a theoretical budget of $ 35 billion was put (about 200 billion by 2017 standards).
Despite the fact that the proposed concepts of stations in their essence now look like regular vintage sci-fi images or postcards, these dwellings, considering their 40-year history, were well thought-out technically and engineeringly. And their creators and did say that such permanent space colonies can really be built and at the same time in half the amount that the US government spent at that time on its armament.
As a result, the Ames Research Center selected three main design concepts within the framework of the contest: the "Berna's Sphere", "O'Neill Cylinder" and "Stanford Tor" stations. Although the design of each of the proposed stations had unique shapes, they were all designed to take into account that each of them could provide a centrifugal force for imitating gravity for its inhabitants. After the construction, the stations would occupy a place in the same orbit as the Moon at the so-called Lagrange libration point.
By the time these proposals were submitted, the NASA aerospace agency had just launched the Pioneer-10 probe carrying an interstellar welcome message aboard any possible extraterrestrial intelligent life in space. Already at that time it seemed that the future of distant space travel was already quite close and there was very little to get to it. And it's true, in just 14 subsequent years mankind has managed to pass from launching into orbit of exclusive unmanned probes for flights to the Moon.
Unfortunately, more than 40 years have passed since the scientific conference where these concepts were presented, we have not yet received the orbital space colonies. The construction of several space stations "for the elite" certainly has the character of outstanding achievements, but against the backdrop of the rapid development of the space sphere, which was dotted with the 60s, 70s and even 80s, it can be said without exaggeration that we are actually stuck on our own orbit, and we still can not do it, or we do not want to break out of it, but we do not tire of declaring our desire to become an interplanetary species.
The Stanford torus
The main ring-shaped residential module was connected to the central section, acting as a spaceport for the ascending and descending spaceships. The total estimated weight of the entire station structure was approximately 10 million tons
This design takes as a basis a "donut-shaped" pipe about 1.5 km in diameter. To create a gravitational effect inside the station, the entire structure would complete a complete revolution around its axis once a minute
The concept of the "Stanford Tor" station formed the basis of the space station shown in the Stanley Kubrick film "Space Odyssey 2001". It was envisaged that on board the present station I could live up to 10,000 people
Saturation of the station with sunlight would be ensured by the presence of a special system of mirrors
The sphere of Bernal
The original concept of "sphere" was proposed back in 1929 by John Desmond Bernal. According to the idea, the station looked like a sphere with a diameter of 16 kilometers. To create a gravitational effect, this machine would have to perform two complete revolutions around its axis per minute
Food for these colonies would be grown inside additional external closed sections in the form of cylindrical or annular structures. Inside these rooms, a special atmospheric and temperature regime should always have been preserved, so that each grown bush of a given crop would yield a crop
One station "Sphere of Bernal" could fit from 20 to 30 thousand people simultaneously on its board
The station's design took into account reliable protection against meteoric impacts. In fact, the developers agreed that meteorites could penetrate the outer skin of the station about once every three years. However, each such event would not pose a serious security threat – air from a station of this size will go out for eternity. That is, the engineers would have had enough time to repair the damage even before the moment when the lives of its inhabitants would be threatened
As in the case of the "Stanford Torus," the provision of the station with sunlight would be made through a special mirror system
The Cylinder of O'Neill
The largest of the proposed projects of the space colony was the O'Neill Cylinder. One such station could occupy an area of up to 160 square kilometers and contain up to one million people on its board. Inside these cylindrical colonies, reaching up to 30 kilometers in length, whole forests, ponds and whole biomes would grow. The inhabitants of the station could control not only the climate, but also mimic entire earthly seasons
According to Jerry Stone, the head of the SPACE project of the British Interplanetary Society, due to the huge size of the station and the possibility of climate control, in these Cylinders O'Neill could "create real rain clouds"
According to one of the technical experts at the Congressional hearings in 1975 on future space missions, such space colonies might one day come to this level of life: "A ten-minute walk up the hill – and you are in a zone of low gravity , where a person literally can soar up. Sports and ballet with such opportunities could reach a new level "