NASA Should Have Put a Ring on Orbit
Nineteen professors were given 10 weeks to design an off-Earth colony. Here's what they came up with.
The space colony appears as a giant wheel in space. Still you cannot comprehend its size, but you know it must be huge.
One of the other passengers who has been on the trip before tells you it is 1800 m in diameter. He points to the six spokes connecting the wheel rim to its hub and tells you each is five times as wide across as is the cabin of your space transport. You look in awe. He tells you that the rough-looking outer "tire"is really a radiation shield built of rubble from the Moon. It protects the colony's inhabitants from cosmic rays.
[Y]ou enter a busy community without skyscrapers and freeways; a city which does not dwarf its inhabitants. The human scale of the architecture is emphasized by the long lines of sight, the frequent clusters of small fruit trees and parks, and the sense of openness produced by the broad expanse of yellow sunlight streaming down from far overhead. This is the central plain running the full circumference of the torus along the middle of the tube.
Houses are the most numerous structures. You are impressed by the architectural achievement in housing 10,000 people on 43 ha (106 acres) while maintaining a spacious environment. Spaciousness is achieved by terracing structures up the curved walls of the torus and also by placing much of the commerce (e.g., large shops, light industry, mechanical subsystems) in the volume of the torus which lies below the central plain on which most inhabitants live.
Selective hiring of construction crew members tends to bias this population toward certain highly desirable skills, and toward the younger ages. In anticipation of the labor needs of the colony and the need to avoid the kinds of burdens represented by large dependent populations, a population is planned with a smaller proportion of old people, children and females than the typical U.S. population. It is a close analog of earlier frontier populations on Earth.