Thoughts & Insights

Interstellar Colonization – Life in Space

We search for life on other planets and investigate the possibilities of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Perhaps one day we humans will populate the reaches of outer space? Not just for some limited short stay on an ISS research station but in a permanent irreversible move? The question might need more precise phrasing – not perhaps humans will move but when will they move to colonize space?

The idea that we humans become familiar enough with the solar system in which our planet earth moves and orbits round the sun once a year, to travel in it and even inhabit it for a certain period is an ages old one. The fantastic visions of science fiction and the sober facts of scientific studies have constantly encouraged us not to reject such notions as overblown fantasies and entertaining delusions but to pin our faith on the hope that someday they will be actually realized. Science fiction is a medium in which both literature and architecture find a means of creative expression that perhaps emanates from our deep longing to travel back to the very origins of our existence, and thus in a certain way to return to them so we can know and research them.

Manned space flights have given us a premonition of what it’s like to defy gravity, leave the earth’s atmosphere and penetrate the reaches of our own solar system. And Fritz Haller back in the 70s of the last century is one of the visionaries who have given us an idea of what it could be like when people move into space and colonize it. Based on the findings of an MIT study, his “Space Colony” is designed as a permanent life environment in which 1,000 people can live and work. Getting to know Fritz Haller and his project for building Prototypes of Space Colonies was one of the things that inspired and enthused OUBEY in his early days as a student of architecture.

Haller’s project is not about setting up a permanent base on another planet like Mars. This opening is now being investigated by NASA, and according to a recent survey some 500 US citizens have already declared their readiness to move to such a colony – without any chance of returning to earth. What Fritz Haller envisaged was an “Orbital” a huge spaceship freely floating in space in which 1,000 people would find their new homes in a totally man-made environment.

What’s fascinating about the project is not only the issues it raises of how to build a totally artificial life environment but also the fact that this environment would be hermetically sealed with the human life space within having definite boundaries to the limitless space without. This poses a tremendous challenge not only in terms of the enabling technologies but also in terms of engineering an adequate social space and creating the social conditions for communal life on such an island in space.

When properly planned, such visions always tend to move in the border areas to social utopias which will probably come much closer to realization in the course of the next fifty to hundred years than many of us might care to think at the moment. From its very inception, the free design and formulation of such an artificial life environment would be a minor miracle of creation in which the collective intelligence of the human race and its ability to really take to heart the lessons learned from its own history would have to prove themselves in a way we have yet to see.