Modern Scientist Predictions Gerard K. O'Neill

About the predictions both right and wrong of modern scientist Gerard K. O'Neill including ones about space travel and colonization.

Predictor: GERARD K. O'NEILL

Internationally known for his work in high-energy experimental particle physics, Gerard O'Neill became interested in space colonies when, in 1969, his freshman physics class chose the subject for a seminar. "I felt the study and the numbers would show that colonization of space would be absurd," he said, "but the more we got into it and the more calculations we did, especially from a financial approach, the more our minds were changed. We became convinced it was possible." Others also are convinced, notably NASA, which awarded him a grant to pursue the idea in 1975, and the House Subcommittee for Space Science and Applications, which also views the idea with favor. His predictions are based on reality. O'Neill says: "This is no science-fiction pipe dream. What is proposed can be done with 1970s technology, and it can be done within the cost range of the Apollo program."

Past Predictions: No record.

Future Predictions: For the 1980s

* Over a period of about five years, a space shuttle program would deliver 10,000 tons of material and 2,000 people to L-5, a point 240,000 mi. from both the earth and the moon, where forces cancel each other out. Much of this material would be mined from the surface of the moon by a 200-man colony established there. It would then be launched into space by a solar-powered mass driver, which would speed it at escape velocity into space. Because of the moon's low gravity, 1/6 that of earth, the costs of mining and launching such materials would be drastically lessened.

For 1990--A space colony of 10,000 inhabitants would be complete and in orbit. Its cost would be paid for by the manufacture of satellite solar stations, which would beam energy back to earth over low-density microwave beams. The colony would be wheel-shaped or cylindrical (the big can in the sky). It would rotate to establish gravity (through centrifugal force), but the gravity would be low to allow man-powered flight as well as new kinds of sports and dances; people with heart conditions would live longer there, too. Inside the satellite would be green plants, trees, animals, and birds. Separate residential, agricultural, and industrial areas would be climate-controlled, and there would be no pollution and no insect pests. The people living in the colony would immediately start making another satellite, which in turn would spawn another, a process that could continue indefinitely.

For 1993--The energy coming from the solar-powered stations in space would exceed that from the Alaska pipeline.

For 2018--Emigration to the space colonies would be possible.

For 2025--The fourth colony, two cylinders connected by cables, would be operative. Measuring 19 mi. long and 4 mi. in diameter, it would contain 100 sq. mi. of land area and a population of several million people.

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