Were you ever an idealistic young space geek? If you’re old enough, you might even remember some of these space station images from when they went by the first time. Boing Boing has put a bunch of them in a gallery: Totally Awesome Space Colonies.
In the mid 1970s there was a bloom of space colony utopianism that grew under the leadership of Gerard K. O’Neill. NASA funded some significant studies, including this one from 1975: Space Settlements: A Design Study. The idea was to build a giant space station out between the earth and the moon at a place called the L-5 Lagrangian libration point. Enthusiasts coined the slogan “L-5 in 1995”, because surely only 20 years would be required to launch our first colony in space. There’s a lot of work in that study, but probably the most significant thing they did, from a PR point of view, was hire Rick Guidice and Don Davis to do the gorgeous paintings featured on the Boing Boing page. I remember staring at those images as a kid. And dig this scene from the study:
Stopping for a mug of Space Blitz on the way back to your apartment you happen to catch the Princeton-Stanford ball game on television from Earth and learn that, to everyone at the bar, the three-dimensional ball game played in the central hub is much more thrilling. You find that … the liberating effects of low gravity and the Coriolis accelerations make all shots longer, faster, and curved, thus completely changing the rules and the tactics of the game.
Mmm… Space Blitz. Is that like Schlitz, I wonder? Anyway, space optimism began to wane in the late 70s as oil crises and Iran crises and the endless wait for the Space Shuttle took their toll. Senator William Proxmire, he of the Golden Fleece award, captured the sentiment about the space station proposal thus: “it’s the best argument yet for chopping NASA’s funding to the bone …. I say not a penny for this nutty fantasy.”
Space enthusiasm seems to be at a low ebb now too. Perhaps space exploration is so boring and commercial now that it will actually happen.