Space stations and habitats in popular culture

Space stations and habitats in popular culture

Space stations and habitats are an important element in popular culture.

Space stations are smaller structures where people usually stay for limited periods.

A space habitat, also called space colony, orbital colony, space city, or space settlement is a space station intended as a permanent settlement rather than as a simple waystation or other specialized facility. No space habitats have yet been constructed beyond Earth orbit, but many design proposals have been made with varying degrees of realism by both science fiction authors and engineers.

pace stations

Space stations in science fiction usually employ spin to give the illusion of gravity, rather than being weightless. The most popular design is the Stanford torus.

The classic wheel space station design

Images of the space station in popular culture are generally based on the wheel space station proposed in the 1950s by rocket scientist Willy Ley:

*The Willy Ley/Chesley Bonestell space station design of 1953 was a 250 ft diameter, 3-deck wheel that revolved at 3 RPM to provide artificial one-third gravity. It was envisaged as having a crew of 80. [ Ryan, Cornelius (editor) "Across the Space Frontier" New York:1953--Viking Press--See Chapter 4 by Willy Ley--"A Station in Space" Pages 98-117; frontispiece of book has Chesley Bonestell illustration of entire wheel space station in orbit above Central America; pages 106 and 107 has cutaway illustration of interior of wheel space station; page 100 mentions that it is designed for a crew of 80. ]
*The film (and novel) "" has "Space Station 5", built as an 1836 ft partially completed double ring, revolving to produce one-sixth gravity; this has proven to be one of the iconic images of a space station in popular culture.


A large amount of science fiction is set on space stations:

*The "Star Trek" series has several types of stations. Federation "Deep Space Station K-7" was featured in a planetary dispute and "Earth Station McKinley" and the massive Federation Spacedocks acted as a shipbuilding/repair facility. "Jupiter Station" was a research and development facility, where Lewis Zimmerman was based. K-7 represents a different order of station -- it does not orbit a planetary body but, rather, is located in a "convenient" point in space which lacks a planetary body to form a nexus for trade and communications.
**The series "" is set on a space station, Deep Space 9, built by the Cardassians around Bajor and later staffed by Federation personnel. Initially it appears to have been an ore-processing station, as well as a control point for the Cardassian occupying garrison. However, under the federation, the station is moved from close planetary orbit to a more distant location, in order to observe and garrison the mouth of the Gamma Quadrant wormhole.
*The Death Star and the Death Star II from the Star Wars series.
*Space Station One.was the home of the Space Family Robinson featured in Gold Key Comics.In the comic, the Robinsons were: scientist father Craig, scientist mother June, early teens Tim (son) and Tam (daughter), along with pets Clancy (dog) and Yakker (parrot). They lived in "Space Station One", a spacious moving craft with hydroponic gardens, observatory, and 2 small shuttle crafts ("Spacemobiles"). In the second issue, a cosmic storm deposited them far from Earth and they have adventures while they try to work they way home.
*Venus Equilateral Relay Station, from the 1940s Venus Equilateral series by George O. Smith, was a communications hub set in Venus' L4 point.
*Mystery in Space, a popular science fiction comic book of the 1950s, often depicted wheel shaped space stations in its stories.
*In Stargate Atlantis, a "stargate bridge" links the Milky Way and Pegasus galaxies. Because there are differences between the Milky Way and Pegasus Stargates, there is a space station linking the two systems at the midpoint. As of the episode The Return, the space station is incomplete and is, in fact, little more than a wire frame holding two Stargates. As of the season 4 premiere Adrift, the Midway Station is externally completed and going online. Later in Season 4, the episode Midway focused on the station, however it was destroyed at the end of the episode.
*In the Disney movie "", the story takes place on a space station. The second and third installment of the series take place at the same location.
*The James Bond film Moonraker featured a space station which serves as Hugo Drax's lair and a base to attack earth using poison plants.
*The "Babylon 5" television series is set on a space station by that name in the years of 2258-2262. The station orbits a planet (Eridani 3) but is generally treated as though sited in deep space, as a neutral meeting point for the various races with which the Earth Government is trying to have friendly relations.
*The space station ISPV-7 serves as the base for the recovery ship DS-12 "Toybox" in the anime series Planetes.
*In the fictional book series, Outlanders, one of the books is set on a station called Parallax Red located at one of the Lagrangian points, that was supposedly launched by the United States in the 90s'.
*In the Command & Conquer series, the GDI faction has most of their command staff on a space station named "Philadelphia".
*The 1986 film "SpaceCamp" features a space station called "Daedalus." Its design was reminiscent of early proposals for Space Station Freedom.
*In the space role-playing game EVE Online, most actions besides mining, traveling and combat take place in space stations orbiting moons and/or planets.


O'Neill cylinders in science fiction

Robert A. Heinlein, in his 1963 novelisation "Orphans of the Sky" (compiling two stories published in 1941), introduced revolving cylinders to emulate gravity. In this case there were many concentric levels, at which gravity stepwise-decreased towards the centre of the structure, resulting in zero gravity at the very centre.

In the Harry Harrison-edited SF-artwork book "mechanismo", an illustration of "island three" is shown alongside technical notes (Mechanismo 1978, page 68)

In the Rama series of books by Arthur C. Clarke, gigantic alien spacecraft similar to O'Neill cylinders are explored by astronauts. Perhaps due to its design for interstellar travel, Rama lacks the mirrors and windows of an O'Neill cylinder, but does have lights arranged in three strips along its length, paralleling the placement of the windows. Note that "Rendezvous with Rama" was published (1973) in the period between O'Neill running the classes in which his cylinder design was produced and his publication, therefore the designs are likely entirely independent.

Jerry Pournelle and John F. Carr edited an anthology of SF stories set in O'Neill cylinders or other types of space colonies, published in 1979 as "The Endless Frontier" volumes 1 and 2.

In the "Gundam" anime science fiction series, O'Neill cylinders are common—especially in the Universal Century, where nine billion human beings live in these colonies. The "Gundam" series space colony design is usually portrayed with a rotational speed much faster than the original O'Neill design. This is in part for visual effect.

Vonda N McIntyre's "Starfarers" series of novels is set on the Starfarer, a classic O'Neill double-cylinder space colony adapted to make FTL interstellar jumps.

The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons makes multiple references to a massive war effort between mankind and an offbranch subspecies of humanity who travel through deep space using what essentially amount to O'Neill cylinders mounted on engines. They are affectionately referred to as 'canships' by the universe's more vulgar population.

The science-fiction television series "Babylon 5" concerned an O'Neill-style space station five miles (8 km) long. While the single cylinder Babylon 5 did not feature a counter-rotating section, its predecessor Babylon 4 did.Like Rama, Babylon 5 lacks the mirrors and windows of an O'Neill cylinder, but does have a fixed central light source. Day and night are simulated as the landscape below revolves around the light source.

In Ken Macleod's "Learning The World", the 'Sunliner' Slow interstellar travel vessel "But the Sky, My Lady! the Sky!", is based around an O'Neil Cylinder with a central artificial 'sunline' (a miniature star strung out like an oversized tubular fluorescent bulb) that is simply activated and deactivated on a 24 hour cycle, rather than relying on windows. On either end is a 'cone' together containing a bridge, maintenance systems, spare reaction fuel and propulsion/power grid systems.

Alexis A. Gilliland, a science fiction writer, proposed a "dragon scale mosaic mirror". This would consist of a cone of aimable mirrors around each habitat. These could provide illumination, generate power, and defend the habitat. The area of the array would be much larger than that of O'Neill's design, but wouldn't have to be built to take the stress of rotating with the habitat.

An O'Neill cylinder similar to those found in the "Gundam" series provides the setting for a stage in the game "Tekken 5". The arena consists of a glass platform mounted near the axis at one end of the habitat, with the rotating cylinder providing the backdrop. The stage is called "The Final Frontier", and the exterior can be seen in a cutscene. The view through the window would suggest that the facility is much nearer to the earth than the typical scenario.

Peter F. Hamilton's "The Night's Dawn" trilogy makes several references to an O'Neill halo orbiting Earth. The books aren't specific, but imply that's it built out of asteroid materials. Also the Edenist culture of the books are said to inhabit huge Habitats that are slight variation on the O'Neill Cylinder, though biologically made with a central light tube running through the centre of the structure rather than the mirror panels proposed in the original design. His "Commonwealth Saga" books also describe the character Ozzie Isaacs' home, which is an O'Neill cylinder located within an asteroid.

Hideo Kojima's science fiction adventure game, "Policenauts" , takes place in an O'Neill space colony located at the L5 Lagrange Point. These structures can also be seen in shooting games like Axelay (stage 2), Zone of the Enders (stage 1), Super Earth Defense Force (stage 4), R-Type Final (stage 1), Thunder Force IV (Ruin stage), GG Aleste (stage 1), and probably many more...

The Neyel, a fictional race in the "Star Trek" novel "The Sundered" (by Andy Mangels and Michael A. Martin), were originally Earth humans who lived on Vanguard, an O'Neill-type habitat constructed inside an asteroid. (The name 'Neyel' is itself derived from O'Neill.)

"The Galactic Whirlpool", a "Star Trek" novel written by David Gerrold, focused on an O'Neill-style space station that had been retro-fitted as a generational interstellar ship.

Gene Wolfe's series "The Book of the Long Sun" take place on a Generation ship, essentially a massive O'Neill cylinder, where the inhabitants have long forgotten that they are on a ship or journey. The series is followed by "The Book of the Short Sun" and is also linked to Wolfe's master work, "The Book of the New Sun".

Orson Scott Card's novel "Ender's Game" concerns mostly the events taking place on Battle School, a short O'Neill cylinder, which houses the all-important Battle Room in the center of its rotation, which keeps it at null gravity.

In the Italian science fiction comic book "Nathan Never", Earth has spawned a number of space colonies in the form of O'Neill cylinders.

The Citadel space station in the video game Mass Effect is an O'Neill cylinder. Its head section is a Stanford torus, housing the headquarters of political and strategic decision-making.

ee also

*O'Neill habitat
*space station
*space habitat
*space colonization

External links

* [ Space stations in Science Fiction]


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