Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

The colonization of Earth's orbit, the Moon, Mars, and other planets still promises a kind of space utopia for Homo sapiens. Since the second half of the 20th century, more and more concepts have imagined how it could be possible for humans to live in permanent habitats beyond our planet. The following 28 images show some of the boldest, most utopian dreams we could have.


A scientific base on the Moon; concept from 1959

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: NASA/Glenn Research Center


Soviet cylindrical colony concept, 1965

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Tekhnika Molodezhi, 1965/10


Toroidal Colony concept, from the space colony summer studies conducted at NASA Ames in the 1970s. Population: 10,000 in a torus wheel living area. Large assemblies can be put together in space. (The small vehicles are called ANTS for Assembly non-tethered ships.)

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Don Davis/NASA/Ames Research Center

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Rick Guidice/NASA/Ames Research Center

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Don Davis/NASA/Ames Research Center

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image and caption: Don Davis/NASA/Ames Research Center


Bernal Spheres, from the space colony summer studies conducted at NASA Ames in the 1970s. Population: 10,000. The Bernal Sphere is designed with a spherical living area. The residential area is in the central sphere. Farming regions are in the "tires." Mirrors reflect sunlight into the habitat and farms. The large flat panels radiate extra heat into space, and panels of solar cells provide electricity. Factories and docks for spaceships are at either end of the long central tube.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Don Davis/NASA/Ames Research Center

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Rick Guidice/NASA/Ames Research Center

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Rick Guidice/NASA/Ames Research Center

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image and caption: Rick Guidice/NASA/Ames Research Center


Cylindrical Colony, from the space colony summer studies conducted at NASA Ames in the 1970s. Population: Over a million. Design proposed by American physicist Gerard K. O'Neill

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Rick Guidice/NASA/Ames Research Center

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Don Davis/NASA/Ames Research Center

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Don Davis/NASA/Ames Research Center

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image and caption: Rick Guidice/NASA/Ames Research Center


1975: View from inside an O'Neill colony from overhead. Farming sections can be seen in terraces with different crops grown on each of the levels, where to mirrors reflects sunlight.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: NASA/Ames Research Center


Soviet space colony concept, 1977.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Tekhnika Molodezhi, 1977/4


Huge orbital farms like this one below will produce enough food for the space settlers.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Delta, 1980/1


Mining colony on an asteroid.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Delta, 1980/1


Toroidal space colony of the future, 1982.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Walt Disney's Epcot Center via Paleofuture


Space base concept from 1984.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Les Bosinas/NASA/Glenn Research Center


Lunar base concept from 1989.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: NASA/JSC


Multi-function Mars base concept from 1991.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: NASA/Glenn Research Center


1995: Earth's Moon could be a good place to test hardware and operations for a human mission to Mars.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Pat Rawlings/NASA


1995: The Moon's one sixth gravity would be an excellent environment for athletic competitions.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Pat Rawlings/NASA


1997: Ice deposits in perpetually shadowed craters at the lunar South Pole open new possibilities for human expansion into the Solar System. In this unique location, a solar-powered colony could produce fuel and launch spacecraft from the Moon's one-sixth gravity. Water from potential ice resources or the regolith circulated through the dome's cells could attenuate dangerous radiation.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Pat Rawlings/NASA


The Kalpana One Space Settlement, the improved version of the space settlement designs of the mid-1970s. The Kalpana One structure is a cylinder with a radius of 250m and a length of 325m. The population target is 3,000 residents.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: Bryan Versteeg/spacehabs.com


Artist's concept of possible colonies on future Mars missions.

Space, Utopia's Final Frontier

Image: NASA/AMES