Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Space Settlements: spreading life throughout the solar system

Space Settlements: spreading life throughout the solar system – http://settlement.arc.nasa.gov

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How could we build a space station without using many resources from the Earth?
  • How many people could live in one colony?
  • What justifications could be made to build a large space colony?
  • How many people could be housed if we demolished the asteroid Ceres and turned it into colony materials?
  • What sort of farm livestock might you have on a space colony?


This site talks about the kinds of space colonies that I hoped I’d be living in one day. The dream is still alive and it is big, according to the website:

In the 1970’s Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill with the help of NASA Ames Research Center and Stanford University showed that we can build giant orbiting spaceships and live in them. These orbital space colonies could be wonderful places to live; about the size of a California beach town and endowed with weightless recreation, fantastic views, freedom, elbow-room in spades, and great wealth. In time, we may see hundreds of thousands of orbital space settlements in our solar system alone. Building these settlements will be an evolutionary event in magnitude similar to, if not greater than, ocean-based Life’s colonization of land half a billion years ago.

Here’s a little more specific description of the habitats they have in mind:

Rather than live on the outside of a planet, settlers will live on the inside of gigantic spacecraft. Typical space settlement designs are roughly one half to a few kilometers across. A few designs are much larger.

Settlements must be air tight to hold a breathable atmosphere, and must rotate to provide psuedo-gravity. Thus, people stand on the inside of the hull.

Enormous amounts of matter, probably lunar soil at first, must cover the settlements to protect inhabitants from radiation. On Earth our atmosphere does this job, but space settlements need about five tons of matter covering every square meter of a colony’s hull to protect space settlers from cosmic rays and solar flares.

Each settlement must be an independent biosphere. All oxygen, water, wastes, and other materials must be recycled endlessly.

Turning to the site itself, it is divided up into several sections:

  • Basics (Who, What, Where, How, Why, When, How much will it cost?)
  • Student Design Contest (for 6-12 Graders) – See 2012 results at http://settlement.arc.nasa.gov/Contest/Results/2012/index.html. The results might be a good map for your own settlement.
  • Online Space Settlement Books (Mostly from 1970s) – Some of these are close to blueprints.
  • Images
  • Other Space Settlement Web Sites
  • Miscellaneous

Story Idea

One of the “Other Space Settlement Web Sites” is the Space Settlement Institute which is pursuing legislation to recognize land ownership on the moon. See their pitch at http://www.space-settlement-institute.org/strategy.html. Complications arising from such legislation might make for an interesting story.


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