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Get Your Ass to Space

Illustration for article titled Get Your Ass to Space

This week on Gizmodo and io9, we’re escaping the gravity well of Earth. We’ll be exploring every aspect of humanity’s future space habitats—from how we’ll grow ecosystems in space vessels and build our first Moon base, to what physicists think are the most realistic space structures you’ve seen in movies.


Pop culture has always been a goldmine for stories about gigantic space structures that humans will build for themselves (and other Earth life), whether it’s the O’Neill cylinders of Interstellar, the ringworld of Halo, or the Death Stars from Star Wars. Plus, of course, there are all the classic tales of space habitats, like Rendezvous With Rama, Ringworld, and Downbelow Station. We love the fantasies, but we love the reality too.

This is an amazing time for space exploration, with expansions to the International Space Station, successful launches of private spacecraft from SpaceX, and the Martian rovers continuing their epic journey across the Red Planet’s surface. Not to mention all the satellites in orbit around Earth and other planets, plus the spacecraft New Horizons that has just rendezvoused with Pluto, and Voyager 1’s recent jump beyond the boundaries of our solar system. It’s true we don’t have a Moon base or a Martian city yet, but we’re using our space robots to gather all the data we’ll need to build them one day.


Until that day comes, we can plan, research... and dream. That’s what space habitats week is all about. We love our beautiful, watery rock—but it’s time to leave its atmospheric envelope and go where no one has gone before. Follow us this week as we tell you how humanity will do it.

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I was a young adult during the heyday of the first space age in the ‘60s, and like many I was a total space wonk; I saw an Apollo moon launch in person. However, here we are fifty years later and all we’ve got is still brute-force chemical rockets and ballistic re-entry capsules. Yes, the rockets are a bit more efficient and the capsules have much better computers, but access to space remains the provence of nation-states, large corporations and billionaires. Where’s the half-century of progress? Why don’t we have truly reusable space-planes for low-cost access to orbit, and maybe nuclear powered ion engines for interplanetary travel? Sadly, the real reason is that nobody wants them. The space race of the ‘60s was all about politics, beating the Russians... at anything. As soon as we won the moon race everyone lost interest. We are no longer willing to spend the money to takes for a viable program of manned space exploration. What money there is got sucked up by the ISS, a white space elephant with no discernible mission. I’m all for getting our collective asses to space, but I just don’t see it happening.