Stunning concept art reveals NASA's 1970s vision for humanity in space

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You think the International Space Station is impressive? You know nothing.

To be fair, the ISS is the quintessential human space outpost – an orbiting icon of diplomacy, scientific progress and technological achievement. (It also gets major points for, you know, actually existing in real life.) But for as impressive as the ISS is, it is but a pale shadow of the city-sized space colonies conceived of by NASA scientists in the summer of 1975.

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Artificial gravity. Trees. Interstellar sunsets. Bustling suburban infrastructure. Sprawling fields of produce. HANG GLIDING. These scientifically informed artistic renderings have it all. Designed for populations ranging from 10,000 to one million, these deep-space settlement concepts are the result of three "space colony summer studies" conducted by researchers with NASA's Ames Research Center in 1975 at Stanford University, and they are utterly superb.

All images, artist info and captions via NASA Ames Research Center

Toroidal Colonies (a.k.a. "The Stanford Torus") | Population 10,000–140,000

Image for article titled Stunning concept art reveals NASA's 1970s vision for humanity in space

Exterior view // Don Davis

Image for article titled Stunning concept art reveals NASA's 1970s vision for humanity in space

Cutaway view, exposing the interior // Rick Guidice

Image for article titled Stunning concept art reveals NASA's 1970s vision for humanity in space
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Interior view // Don Davis

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Construction along the torus rim // Don Davis


Bernal Spheres | Population 10,000–30,000

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Exterior view // Rick Guidice

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Cutaway view of a Bernal Sphere // Rick Guidice

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Agricultural models in cutaway view (multiple toroids) // Rick Guidice

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Interior including human powered flight // Rick Guidice


Cylindrical Colonies | Population: Over One Million

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Exterior view of a double cylinder colony // Rick Guidice

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Interior view looking out through large windows // Rick Guidice

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Eclipse of the sun with view of clouds and vegetation // Don Davis

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Endcap view with suspension bridge // Don Davis


NASA and jawdropping vintage concept art go together like rocket fuel and oxidizer. For more, check out these mock-ups from the Shuttle Program's early days.

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[NASA ARC via SPACE.com]

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DISCUSSION

By
99TelepodProblems

I have no proof of this but I have a big feeling Elysium was inspired in part by these old paintings. I loved these things as a kid. I would take a magnifying glass and try to see every little detail.