Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth Space Science

Where Does Jeff Bezos Foresee Putting Space Colonists? Inside O'Neill Cylinders (geekwire.com) 151

Elon Musk of SpaceX wants to settle humans on Mars. Some talk about taking the Moon Village route. But Jeff Bezos has a different kind of off-Earth home in mind when he talks about having millions of people living and working in space. His long-range vision focuses on a decades-old concept for huge artificial habitats that are best known today as O'Neill cylinders. From a report on GeekWire (edited and condensed): The concept was laid out in 1976 in a classic book by physicist Gerard O'Neill, titled "The High Frontier." The idea is to create cylinder-shaped structures in outer space, and give them enough of a spin that residents on the inner surface of the cylinder could live their lives in Earth-style gravity. The habitat's interior would be illuminated either by reflected sunlight or sunlike artificial light. Bezos referred to his long-term goal of having millions of people living and working in space, as well as his enabling goal of creating the 'heavy lifting infrastructure' to make that happen. In Bezos' view, dramatically reducing the cost of access to space is a key step toward those goals. "Then we get to see Gerard O'Neill's ideas start to come to life, and many of the other ideas from science fiction," Bezos said. "The dreamers come first. It's always the science-fiction guys: They think of everything first, and then the builders come along and they make it happen. But it takes time." For Musk, the prime driver behind settling people on Mars is to provide a backup plan for humanity in the event of a planetwide catastrophe -- an asteroid strike, for example, or environmental ruin, or a species-killing pandemic. Bezos sees a different imperative at work: humanity's growing need for energy. "We need to go into space if we want to continue growing civilization," he explained. "If you take baseline energy usage on Earth and compound it at just 3 percent per year for less than 500 years, you have to cover the entire surface of the Earth in solar cells. That's just not going to happen. [...] I predict that in the next few hundred years, all heavy industry will move off planet. It will be just way more convenient to do it in space, where you have better access to resources, better access to 24/7 solar power," he said last weekend. "Solar power on Earth is not that great, because the planet shades us half the time. In space, you get solar power all the time. So there'll be a lot of advantages to doing heavy manufacturing there, and Earth will end up zoned residential and light industry. [...] We want to go to space to save the Earth. I don't like the 'Plan B' idea that we want to go to space so we have a backup planet. ... We have sent probes to every planet in this solar system, and believe me, this is the best planet. There is no doubt. This is the one that you want to protect."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Where Does Jeff Bezos Foresee Putting Space Colonists? Inside O'Neill Cylinders

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    We have lost a hero to our glorious and noble cause, but does this foreshadow our defeat? No. It is a new beginning. Compared to Earth Federation the military resources of Zeon is less than one thirtieth of theirs. Despite this major difference, how is it that we have been able to fight the fight for so long? It is because our goal in this war is a righteous one. It’s been over fifty years since the elite of the Federation, consumed by greed began a war against our blessed empire! Never forget the tim

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday October 31, 2016 @12:28PM (#53185353)
    <voice type="ominous yet hopeful"> Babylon Five! </voice>
    • When I first came here, this was all swamp. Everyone said I was daft to build a castle on a swamp, but I built in all the same, just to show them. It sank into the swamp.
      So I built a second one. That sank into the swamp.
      So I built a third. That burned down, fell over, then sank into the swamp.
      But the fourth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the strongest castle in all of England.

      • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday October 31, 2016 @12:56PM (#53185613)
        When I came here, it was all just empty vacuum and a swampy planet. Everyone said I was daft to build a space station orbiting a swampy planet, but I built it all the same, just to show them.

        It fell from orbit, sank into the swamp.

        So I built a second one. That one fell from orbit, sank into the swamp.

        So I built a third. That exploded, fell from orbit, then sank into the swamp.

        The fourth one, that one was ripped from time and space by the great machine on the planet below.

        So I built a fifth one. That one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Ivanova, the strongest space station in all of Earthforce!
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Babylon Five!

      When you're dealing with Jeff Bezos, it's more like Babble-On Five

  • Actually, the idea of a so-called "O'Niell Cylinder" was put forward in 1973 by Arthur C. Clarke in a book titled Rendezvous with Rama.
    • Re:Clarke Cylinder (Score:5, Informative)

      by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday October 31, 2016 @12:51PM (#53185579)

      Actually, per wikipedia, the idea of a rotating cylindrical habitat was put forth in 1920 in "Beyond the Planet Earth", Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. (published in English in 1960)...

      And maybe he's not the first either.

      Besides, the O'Niell Cylinder is a very particular layout. The one in Rama was not an O'Neill cylinder AT ALL.

      There was an ocean in Rama that was a ring around the center, and the habitat as i recall was the entire cylinder? (been years since I read it...) for example, while an ONeil cylinder in contrast has alternating lengthwise strips of habitat and windows (sky).

      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        Coincidentally I just read Rendezvous with Rama for the first time last month. I don't remember anything about Rama itself disqualifying it from being an O'Neill Cylinder. If anything it was an O'Neill Cylinder that was tailored to fit the forces that longitudinal space travel would impart upon it, with the high wall on one side of the "ocean". If anything that the contents of the insides still obeyed Newtonian physics along with using that same physics to impart the centripetal acceleration for gravity
        • by vux984 ( 928602 )

          . If anything it was an O'Neill Cylinder that was tailored to fit the forces that longitudinal space travel would impart upon it, with the high wall on one side of the "ocean".

          Rama was a cylindrical rotating habitat, yes.
          An Oneill cylinder, to me at least, and from what I can tell online is specifically:

          Two counter rotating cylinders (to cancel out gryo effects) (Rama wasn't that)
          Stripes of habit and windows (so the habitats had sky) (Rama wasn't that)

          Rama was a rotating cylindrical habitat ship, but I don't think that's enough to make it an o'neill cylinder.

          Still trying to decide if I want to read the somewhat ghost-written sequels or not

          "noncomittal sound". I've read them... as the other commenter said, it's focused far more on the social aspects; and is a

          • by TWX ( 665546 )

            Ultimately, Gentry Lee's novels are not a story about Rama... it's about people. The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K Le Guin) is maybe something in the same ... genre as Gentry Lee's Rama books.

            Good to know.

            I'd previously read Eon by Greg Bear. Some of Rama's initial conditions reminded me of Eon's; with the obvious differences in the reveal of the origin, like Bear was inspired by Clarke but didn't want to write the same book.

            • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

              Ultimately, Gentry Lee's novels are not a story about Rama... it's about people. The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K Le Guin) is maybe something in the same ... genre as Gentry Lee's Rama books.

              Good to know.

              vux984 has pretty much nailed it describing the Rama sequels. Worth a read, but not at Clarke's level of mindfuckery.

              I'd previously read Eon by Greg Bear. Some of Rama's initial conditions reminded me of Eon's; with the obvious differences in the reveal of the origin,

              To me, Bear is Clarke's generational upgrade. If you've read Eon - do yourself a favor and read Eternity, Bear takes it to the next level and if you enjoyed Eon, you will not be disappointed. There is a reason why Eon is billed as the greatest sci-fi ever, it is, breathtaking scope and ideas that re-write the way your brain works. On that, I think Alistair Reynolds is Bear's generational upgr

    • by Pseudonymous Powers ( 4097097 ) on Monday October 31, 2016 @02:04PM (#53186195)

      Actually, the idea of a so-called "O'Niell Cylinder" was put forward in 1973 by Arthur C. Clarke in a book titled Rendezvous with Rama.

      It's true that Rama was, like an O'Neill Cylinder, a cylindrical habitat with rotational pseudogravity. However, Rama was made from unobtainium, while a true O'Neill Cylinder is instead made of unaffordium.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        If you have the resources you can built it, cost is an illusion created by greed (I can afford it by my rules, you can not afford it by my rules, don't agree, I will kill you either slowly in prison or fast with bullets). The access to resources is completely arbitrary in the cost model, can have millions of times more than you need but greed says some dickwad owns it all and you can not afford to buy it (perversely enough the same bullshit rules say you can have absolutely no resources and the same dick wa

        • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

          We get it, you're anti-capitalistic. So, in the hierarchy of needs, where (or how) do you expect people to get the motivation to build this, especially if they're not given a ticket for the ride? It will take years to build, and those people will need everything that they need right now just to live...how is that "funded"? Should we just call Habitat for Humanity? Sarcasm aside, I'd personally donate time to a project like that, but still gotta pay the bills.

  • the prime driver behind settling people on Mars is to provide a backup plan for humanity in the event of a planetwide catastrophe -- an asteroid strike, for example, or environmental ruin, or a species-killing pandemic.

    As Kim Stanley Robinson proposed in his recent novel Aurora [amazon.com] , the longterm survival of human biology might be inextricably dependent on Earth's ecosystem. Not just the sort of Earth-like features one can reproduce in an artificial habit for a few years, but the planet-wide scale that Earth offers. (In the novel, people on a generation starship discover that salt and other toxins start building up quickly in the smaller scale of their ship.) If humanity is going to survive, that looks like it can happen only if we transcend biology, and if the human race does start moving into machine bodies, then it might not be necessary to leave Earth after all — Vernor Vinge once mused that the reason we don't see other civilizations is because they moved themselves deep under planets' surface where even asteroid strikes wouldn't matter, and they now pass their time in virtual realities where life is easy and limitless instead of the hard work of interplanetary exploration.

    • In the novel, people on a generation starship discover that salt and other toxins start building up quickly in the smaller scale of their ship.

      That's a general rule seen in many contexts: the larger a system is, and the more varied its contents (preferably including many subsystems / groups that work independently from each other), the more stable the whole will be. And/or the bigger the chance at least some of its citizens will survive a catastrophe. Size & numbers matter. Especially if "numbers" can be read as "varieties" rather than a larger count of the same thing(s).

      So in terms of passing on genes, a city sized spac

    • KSR is more fantasy than hard Science Fiction.

      He also is really impressed with his own intellect. Readers not so much.

    • As Kim Stanley Robinson proposed in his recent novel Aurora , the longterm survival of human biology might be inextricably dependent on Earth's ecosystem. Not just the sort of Earth-like features one can reproduce in an artificial habit for a few years, but the planet-wide scale that Earth offers.

      Ah, right, the "Earth is magical" argument.

      Any chemical process required can be performed a different way. There's no magic here. There are a lot of details we don't yet know about, and many of them won't be discovered until we actually try it, but when we do we'll find the problems and devise solutions.

    • (In the [KSR] novel, people on a generation starship discover that salt and other toxins start building up quickly in the smaller scale of their ship.)

      Bo-lock-s. Unadulterated bullshit of the highest ordure.

      I've read one thing by KSR that caused me to file him (well, "her" for a long time. It's only recently that I've discovered that she is a he Whatever.) under "try more". Then I waded through the first of the "Multicolour Mars" series and found it amusing but not worth further wading. But if he has reall

  • So that's why Amazon's stock went down. Investors heard Bezos talk...
  • The only resources (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Monday October 31, 2016 @12:48PM (#53185545)

    The only resources within an O'Neill Cylinders are the ones that man puts there. They need to have a 100% recycling ability within the cylinder or they will need a place to dump waste and take in new resources.

    Not saying that this is a deal-breaker, but it means everything needs to be more finely balanced. It's like keeping a fishtank. A small aquarium can quickly go belly-up if the chemistry isn't maintained. Large Aquariums are more stable. A pond or a lake, infinitely moreso.

    Mars is an ocean. An O'Neill Cylinder is a fishbowl.

  • He is correct. We will need more energy, and clearly there are only two ways to get it: colonize space, or cover the entire Earth with solar cells. There are no other alternatives. Clearly.
    • by mspohr ( 589790 )

      I agree.
      Extrapolate energy use out 500 years at 3% (when it's actually been declining recently)?
      Extrapolate our current 6 billion population out 500 years at 3% and you get 15,731,263,000,000,000.
      Stupid Jeff Bezos.

      • by fnj ( 64210 )

        It's more fun to calculate 1%/annum exponential growth to a very modest (even in terms of human history) years. I'll do it for you.
        1 year: 1.01
        10 years: 1.10
        100 years: 2.70
        1000 years: 21,000
        10,000 years: 1.64E+43
        100,000 years: 1.4E+432
        1,000,000 years: 2.4E+4321

    • by Anonymous Coward

      LOL! Only two options, huh? Clearly, huh? So, solar cells in space - At 1 AU, 550 million times the Earth's surface area (1.1 billion when you consider only Earth's daylight side). Clearly not a possibility, huh? Clearly one of us is intellectually challenged.

  • by NReitzel ( 77941 ) on Monday October 31, 2016 @12:56PM (#53185623) Homepage

    And that is -the- reason to build an O'Neill colony.

    In order to build it and make it work, it is necessary to understand an ecology, deeply and comprehensively. Mistakes will be made and what better place to make a mistake than a totally artificial habitat? The first of the experiments (actual experiments, not "I read the journals" studies) was BioSphere, and that didn't work out so well.

    So what was the motivation to fix BioSphere? Not much, really. Easier to walk away muttering "That was bad, dude."

    With a colony, the colonials are most mighty motivated to fix the darn thing. If technology needs to be developed, it will be developed. If new principles need to be learned, they will be learned.

    And for all of you "This is a nutty idea" I have a few short words. New World. Panama Canal. Washing Hands.

    Nutty ideas have a way to become decidedly un-nutty.

    • by waveclaw ( 43274 ) on Monday October 31, 2016 @04:29PM (#53187225) Homepage Journal

      BioSphere II [wikipedia.org] was a poorly planned theme-park garden now owned by the University of Arizona.

      Want to see what can be done if you really understand ecology and not just theme park construction? Look at Ascension Island [wikipedia.org]. Joseph Hooker, with the aid of Charles Darwin and Kew gardens, built the ecosystem on the island out of completely foreign species. This cloud rainforest was built whole cloth on a bare lump of clinker sticking out of the ocean long before electrification.

      The key difference is ocean.

      Biosphere II was designed with almost no significant bodies of water containing phytoplankton, which produce up to 85% of all the oxygen [earthsky.org]. The facility has a glorified wake pool that would have fit in a large cities' water park. The planners put in 50% more grassland than synthetic ocean. Much of that 850m "ocean" is dedicated to a coral reef. Unsurprisingly, the oxygen levels crashed soon after closing the doors. Both times.

      If one thing was unrealistic about O'Neil Colonies it was the sheer lack of mixing oceans in all the designs. Water is one of the most abundant substances outside the dry line in the Solar system. It's also a good radiation shield and has high thermal mass. The giant magic space windows that somehow didn't let in vast amounts of cosmic radiation were more realistic.

      O'Neil also wrote about Bernal Spheres [nss.org]. These are slightly better, but have their own engineering challenges. Artists still show the interiors as if they were a cutout of a heavily populated Italian riverside. More relaistic would be 70-80% ocean with islands or peninsula. But in Bezo's case it's probably a matter of go big or go home. And the Island Three plans [wikipedia.org] are certainly Big Homes.

  • Why not call it Freeside and have it run by an AI. While at it, Amazon could join forces with Tesla, and call the joint venture T-A...
  • he talks about having millions of people living and working in space.

    Firstly he can pay them less because they can hardly walk out, can they?

    And why bother routing your profits through Ireland, St. Bongo & Lower Melilla when you can stuff them on Ganymede?

    • Bezos will be long dead before we are able to construct reliable rockets that would be needed to achieve space based industry.
  • by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Monday October 31, 2016 @01:24PM (#53185871) Homepage

    O'Neill Cylinders are unstable as I recall. They tend to eventually start rotating around their short axis instead, dumping everything on the curved walls out to the end caps.

    Stanford Toruses are better.

  • Energy budget (Score:4, Interesting)

    by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) on Monday October 31, 2016 @02:13PM (#53186259)

    I understand the allure of separating heavy industry from people and parks and nice things, to centralize the pollution. But if you put heavy industry in space and most people still live on the ground, it takes an incredible amount of energy to get the raw resources into orbit and bring the finish products back down. If you mine the moon or asteroids, that still takes a lot of energy to get to space-based factories. If you put the factories on the moon or near the asteroids, that's still a lot of energy to ship finished products back to earth or orbital habitats. If you put the factories on Earth near the resources, it's a lot of energy to get the finished products up to orbit.

    Besides, factories pollute a lot less now than they used, they are getting cleaner all the time, and we rely on heavy industry, percentage-wise, a lot less than we used to, and all these trends are going to continue.

    And if energy becomes so cheap (fusion, cold fusion, who knows) that all this shuffling is practical, then it would also be practical to simply pour all that energy into making heavy industry even cleaner. The problem with cutting pollution isn't the idea, it's doing so efficiently, and with cheap energy, efficiency becomes more relative.

    So what am I missing? What is the actual benefit to separating heavy industry and people?

    • Most of the heavy industry isn't much/any cleaner, just further away from you.

    • by waveclaw ( 43274 )

      So what am I missing? What is the actual benefit to separating heavy industry and people?

      That it is really really easy to get things down into a gravity well.

      In orbit? Just toss the package out the back fast enough and it comes down all on it's own. Take care to not hit anything on the way down.

      Also, space colonization for real will the subject to huge limitations. Suppose you manufacture stuff in orbit and have the technology to ship it down to the ground. The landing process is the same technology

      • Yes, dropping stuff from orbit is easy -- unless you want it to survive. Then you need as much structure as payload. This also doesn't account for the raw materials -- how do you get that to the orbital factories? This is, by definition, heavy industry, not smart watches. Cars, trucks, steel stock, drilling machines -- nothing small and light.

        Thus my question about the energy budget.

  • "We need to go into space if we want to continue growing civilization,"

    The real question is do we want to grow our civilization and, if so, in quantity or in quality or both? Obviously if we breed beyond replacement levels we will eventually overpopulate any fixed finite space. It's not clear that optimizing for the maximal number of humans is the best outcome. I think we should instead be focusing on reducing human population to managable numbers while advancing social structures and technology to have bet

  • Has he solved the cosmic ray & solar flare problem?
  • Jeff Bezos read something someone else did and he wants to leverage it as his own? shocking.

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

Working...