From the Brick Moon to Island One: Space Habitats in Science Fiction before O'Neill's High Frontier

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S. Baxter (2019), JBIS, 72, pp.296-301

Refcode: 2019.72.296
Keywords: BIS SPACE Project, Space colonisation, Space habitats, Gerard K. O’Neill, Science fiction

The SPACE project is an update of the proposals for space colonisation developed by Gerard K. O’Neill and co-workers in the 1970s. O’Neill claimed that his work was based on engineering logic and that he had been unaware of any relevant previously published science fiction. In fact the first visions of space colonies were developed in science fiction works of the nineteenth century, and there was a fruitful exchange of ideas between the science and the fiction, including anticipations of elements of O’Neill’s studies. For example Smith’s ‘Venus Equilateral’ stories from 1942 featured a large cylindrical space habitat as featured in O’Neill’s designs three decades later. This paper traces the development of space colonisation ideas in science fiction as they foreshadowed O’Neill’s thesis. O’Neill may not have been aware of it himself but more than a century of relevant science fiction had prepared the human consciousness for his vision of living in space.

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