This material is provided as a public service to support the student Space Settlement Contest. The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of NASA or any other government body.

Life Spreads Before the Sun * If the Sun Dies
Space agriculture and Space cops * Space agriculture retort
The smile of Timothy Leary * Space just means bigger weapons * 8 am of the world *
Limits to Growth - wronger than ever * Grandiose failure

Life Spreads Before the Sun

Dear Stewart,

Your Spring CQ has stirred up my feelings and random bits of information about space colonization. Thus I am inspired to write a letter when I should be packing for the summer.

A few notes on ecosystems, small is beautiful, and environmental ethics: Working on space colonization has given me perspective on many of these things. They have been great antidotes to the industrial mentality of ignoring side effects and the finiteness of our globe, but they fall down when proposed as absolute, universal ethical principles. Small may or may not be beautiful: good is beautiful, and good varies with the situation. Wendell Berry suggests that hydrogen bombs in space would be monstrous "in any context." In the Universe at large (yes, our universe, part of natural reality) there are places where all the hydrogen bombs on our planet would be like a candle in a forest fire! (None the less, nuclear explosives are not part of space plans, and appear unnecessary.)

I noticed two strong objections to stepping into space among the letters. The first is that space should not be meddled with lest man hurt it. The second is that space is such a deadly environment that man cannot live there successfully, and was not meant to be there (if god had intended people to live in space, he would have given them the capacity to build habitats there . . .). Space, or at least our corner of it, is a place of dead rock, vacuum, and radiation. No ecosystems to disturb. No groundwater to pollute. No atmosphere to foul. Very few historic landmarks to deface. The worst we can do is disturb it with life. In its way it is hostile, but I wouldn't care to try a temperate zone winter without shelter either. Someone said that man is the only animal that fouls his own nest. The obvious response is that man is the only animal that is trying to grow up without leaving the nest.

On living in space colonies: what is possible is open space, sunlight, growing things, airy tension structures, and clean air. What is needed is imagination. There is little reason to put machinery or industry inside a colony, however much there may be in the vacuum outside. The only kind that comes to mind is farm equipment. If the mad bomber in the cartoon tried anything, he might be disappointed. The result would be some broken panels, a stiff breeze a few yards away, and a temporary patch brigade on the scene a few minutes later.

On ecosystems in colonies: try going through everything that has been written on the difficulties of making colony ecosystems work, but replace words with the prefix "eco-" by phrases involving the tending of farms and parks. Two and a half acres per person under ideal farming conditions! If John Todd believes that figure, he must not believe in his own work. The New Alchemy Institute is in many ways taking on a bigger problem than the one we face. Growing fish and algae in the same tank is much like letting the cows in the corn and not pulling weeds; good stuff but all we need is something close to conventional farming.

About phosphorus: yes, the moon contains phosphorus, as do the asteroids. The reason the Earth is in phosphorus trouble is the same reason that goiters were common in the midwest and that much Wyoming rangeland didn't produce until it was scattered with selenium beads. That reason is that we don't have a closed ecosystem on Earth. Unlike the colonies, minerals on Earth end up in the seas; human phosphate supplies dissappear into our 400,000,000 tons of seawater per person, to be recovered through (largely) haphazard, non-ecologically controlled geological processes. Why do animals risk death to reach salt licks? Gaia's blood tends to pool in her feet, but then she is rather old . . .

Radiation (and two-headed calves): a couple of meters of dirt under foot will do the same thing for a colony as the air over our heads, and for the same reason.

To John Holt: I have worked on a dream for six years. I have done most of the calculations and considered most of the design points you mention I know the people you are calling mad scientists. All I can say in response to your letter is please respect our ability to see the obvious, and please use a trace of common sense and creativity on a problem before proclaiming it serious. The most interesting questions are becoming economic, and are not simple. If you (or anyone else by the way) wish to visit our group at MIT to discuss anything, please feel free.

To those who have looked at the night sky and not seen a black wall, blessings. Talk to your friends. Life proceeds, and spreads before the Sun. Cambridge is turning towards our planet's dawn line, and I must pack.

Eric Drexler
Cambridge, Massachusetts

If the Sun Dies

Philip Morrison, the peerless book reviewer for Scientific American, suggested this book by handing his copy to me. "Read it."

He's right It's far the best book on space exploration, and I suspect it is Fallaci's best work. She addresses herself throughout to her father, who loathes Space, and reaches him through the experiences they shared in the Italian Resistance during the war. Unlike most American reporters she has an unashamed perception of heroism, and she is abundantly dubious of the freeze-dried delights of American culture.

It is thorough journalism. A year on the project (early, before the moon landing), she talked to the scientists, the engineers, the flacks, the astronauts especially, and to Ray Bradbury, who gave her the title. It's clear that the ones who weren't scared of her loved her and said unsayable things. (When I read Wally Schirra's remarks aloud to Rusty Schweickart. his response was "I don't believe it.'') Fallaci finds herself liking Von Braun in spite of politics, and adoring Deke Slayton who personally bombed her in Florence and is stricken by that. Violating her every European instinct, Pete Conrad sells her on fast-food culture.

It's the chronicle of a conversion, reluctant, hard-fought, richly perceptive, convincing. "I love the Earth, do you understand? I love the leaves and the birds, the fish and the sea, the snow and the wind! And I love green and blue and all the colors and the smells, and that's all there is, do you understand? That's all we have, and I don't want to lose it on account of your rockets, do you understand?"

You grew white with anger. And your every muscle warned me to be quiet, not to go on with my nonsense. But I couldn't keep quiet any longer: it was as if a war, a gulf, had opened up between us. And I told you, though I don't know if these were my words, that I love the Earth too, Father. It's my home and I love it. But a home you can never leave isn't a home at all, it's a prison, and you have always told me that man isn't made to stay in prison, he's made to escape from it and too bad if he risks getting killed escaping.

"Don't pay any attention to people who tell you they have such a wild look because of tension, of exhaustion, of joy at having made it. It's got nothing to do with these things. It's rage at having come back to Earth. As if up there they're not only freed from weight, from the force of gravity, but from desires, affections, passions, ambitions, from the body. Do you know that for months John and Wally and Scott went around looking at the sky? You could speak to them and they didn't answer, you could touch them on the shoulder and they didn't notice: their only contact with the world was a dazed, absent, happy smile. They smiled at everything and everybody, and they were always tripping over things. They kept tripping over things because they never had their eyes on the ground."

"You seem to know them well," I exclaimed.

"Sure I know them well!" she said.

"What did you say your name was?" I persisted.

"I didn't say," she replied, amused. "My name's O'Hara. Dee O'Hare. I am the astronauts' nurse."

"We need art as we need dreams," Wally Schirra concluded.

"Dreams? Did you say dreams?"

"Without our dreams we wouldn't be where we are: dreaming of going to other planets, to other solar systems, and finding other Earths, our Earth, among billions of stars."

"Our Earth? Did you say our Earth?"

"Certainly. Because it's our Earth, it'll always be our Earth that we're looking for, it'll always be our Earth that we discover. I don't dream about the Moon. I know enough about the Moon to know how unpleasant and inhospitable it is. There's not one bit of Moon that's worth the Earth or that we could bring back to Earth as a trace of civilization. I don't dream about Mars. I know enough about Mars to know that you can't live there, you can't settle it. Mars and the Moon are two ugly islands. So then, you say, what's the point of going to them? The point is to be able to say I've been there, I've set foot on them and I can go further, to look for beautiful islands....

Wally Shirra: Feeling weightless . . . I don't know, it's so many things together. A feeling of pride, of healthy solitude, of dignified freedom from everything that's dirty, sticky. You feel exquisitely comfortable, that's the word for it exquisitely. . . You feel comfortable and you feel you have so much energy, such an urge to do things, such ability to do things. And you work well, yes, you think well, you move well, without sweat, without difficulty, as if the biblical curse In the sweat of thy face and in sorrow no longer exists. As if you've been born again."

We must be ready to meet an intelligence and a justice that are the fruits of different evolutions. For example, we must forget our principle of "Don't treat others as you wouldn't like to be treated yourself" or "Treat others as you would like to be treated" and establish instead a principle that says "Treat them as they would like to be treated." The first thing they want, seeing that they're alive, is to live; so we mustn't kill them, we mustn't land on their territory in such a way as to damage it, we mustn't go there at all if we aren't invited.

"Don't you pray?"

Pete Conrad scratched his anchor, revealed his widespaced teeth.

"Well, not in swimming pools. Nor in churches either. I mean, I don't go to church and all that. But as for believing, I believe just the same, we all believe, more or less, even those who say: I don't believe in a thing, neither Heaven nor Hell nor anything. But I'd like to see them when . . . Boy! At least three times I've nearly crashed and each time I commended myself to God like crazy. Those damn controls wouldn't be working one goddam bit and I'd pray to God, make them work, God! And you want to know something? I believe God helped me, that He made them work, those goddam controls that weren't working: because I was really going to crash. It's the same, you see, with the Moon. You fool around, you joke about it, but when you think about actually going to the Moon the first thing you do is ask God's help. Then the second thing is you thank Him."

"But what if He doesn't help?"

"Dammit! You thank Him anyway. It's good manners. If I ask you for a match and you don't give it to me, I thank you anyway, don't I? It's good manners. So I ask myself, why should I be polite to you and not to God?"

Ecological Considerations for Space Colonies

Antonio Ballester, Barcelona, Spain
E.S. Barghoorn, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Daniel B. Botkin, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
James Lovelock, Bowerchalke, Wilts, U.K.
Ramon Margalef, Barcelona, Spain
Lynn Margulis, Boston, Massachusetts
Juan Oro, Barcelona, Spain
Rusty Schweickart, Washington, D.C.
David Smith, Bristol, U.K
T. Swain, Boston, Massachusetts
John Todd, Hatchville, Massachusetts
Nancy Todd, Hatchville, Massachusetts
George M. Woodwell, Woods Hole, Massachusetts

There appears to be growing interest in the possibility of establishing large space colonies capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of people in isolation from the earth for long periods (for example, see G. O'Neill, Co-Evolution Quarterly, Spring, 1976). Such colonies would present extremeley difficult biological and ecological problems. These should be addressed at the very outset if any serious effort toward designing satellites or colonies on celestial bodies other than the earth is to proceed. This statement is the product of a series of discussions held in Woods Hole on May 14 and subsequently with scientists who have had experience in the study or design of closed ecological systems and who express concern lest the problems of developing congenial livable conditions on artificial or natural satellites be considered engineering problems rather than basic humanistic and biological ones.

The proposal is considered a logical and exciting extension of our space exploration and pioneering. It is to build a new meta-stable ecosystem, complete with biotic resources and closed cycles for other essential resources, and capable of supporting man over long periods. No such system has ever been constructed on earth. The probability that such a system can be built and maintained indefinitely at present seems remote. It seems especially remote when we realize that we have no background in the analysis of the problem and no technical or scientific research programs underway at present to develop the background. One of the current theses of economists and technologists is that economic and industrial growth is necessary for support of contemporary industrialized societies. As the earth becomes more crowded, and its resources depleted, the options for growth become progressively circumscribed. Yet problems of expansion into space also seem nearly unsurmountable. People from industrialized societies might not accept the limitations on their activities that life in such a colony would require: limitations on ownership of private property, procreation, travel, and psychological adjustments in interaction with others. Nonetheless, the question of space colonization should be explored.

Our experience leads us to believe that the greatest probability of success in establishing a space colony that might remain for as long as 25 years would be derived by adapting a large natural ecosystem on earth to the support of man. By large we mean in addition to surface area, a high diversity and high degree of patchiness. The versatility of forested areas, subtropical savannahs, and coastal environments and the success of man in adapting such ecosystems to human support leads us to the conclusion that the focus should be on such areas. With this background we would advance a very preliminary list of issues as worthy of immediate consideration before further commitments of funds or time are made.

  1. Do all space colonizations intrinsically depend on exploitation of earth resources or, at least in principle, can independent and eventually productive ecosystems be established anywhere in the solar system?
  2. A viable space station that has the possibility of being stable in its basic biotic structure over a period of 25 years would probably require an area of several square miles. The total amount of primary productivity, its diversity, and its distribution between food and fiber and the stabilization of other resources and potentiality for recycling will obviously determine the upper limit of the number of people that might be sustained. Do we in principle have the technological capabilities to launch or establish such large colonies?
  3. Decisions would have to be made as to the minimal volumes required to sustain segments of the ecosystem and minimal volumes to sustain individual populations within it. The knowledge of minimal volumes is in its infancy and the relationship between stability and minimal area has been established only in the most rudimentary ways. In general, larger more diverse ecosystems are more stable; if stable and productive closed ecosystems could not be made to function on Earth they certainly would not function in orbit.
  4. The distribution of major mineral nutrient elements is a major problem. All organisms on earth require six major elements in abundance: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and oxygen. There are an additional six to ten that seem to be universally required and there are probably 30 more that are required in special circumstances by certain organisms. Almost any ecosystem would contain these elements, yet their proper delivery and removal, their cycling, is a serious challenge. Elements must be delivered in the optimal quantities and proportions and in appropriate chemical form. Often they are required as gases. We must be concerned with the biological and geological and man-made informational systems that distribute essential elements.
  5. Most productive forests, mixed agricultural and coastal ecosystems are attuned to seasonality, which implies appropriate variations in precipitation and temperature One must recognize at the outset that natural eco-systems will not remain in their initial condition but will change by both succession and evolution. The design of the allowable maximum and minimum ranges of variation of ambient conditions in an orbiting space colony may be a serious problem.
  6. Because the major source of energy to drive this basic unit of nature is solar, the question of the spectral distribution of incident energy, the quantity and penodicity of electromagnetic radiation at each wavelength, must be considered and controlled.
  7. It will be essential that water be recirculated within the colony, delivered to the vegetation at appropriate intervals, collected, used in irrigation and for other purposes. We recognize the desirability of something similar to a coastal system with both terrestrial and aquatic components.
  8. We must consider the choice of an agricultural base that will tend to maximize photosynthesis and provide a stable supply of food.
  9. The stabilization of the basic ecosystem will require redundancy in its diverse systems. For example, often interaction between populations of organisms ranks more important for the stability of an ecosystem than the activity of single organisms. Very little is known about this. How many different types, for example, of nitrogen-fixing organisms should be present? What organic systems and mechanisms for chemical conversion of nitrogen would be required to allow for failures?
  10. Eventually, the psychological and sociological challenge of confining people to small places for much of their lives must be considered. The potential for malfunction of small ecosystems seems large: the probability of disease microbes, fungal infections of plants and other disasters must be estimatable.
  11. For a rational space strategy the order of approach to the problem is critical. The basic ecological problems must be attacked on earth first, then in near space orbit. Only after successful self-contained systems have proved feasible on earth for some time ought such systems be launched.

This list of issues is obviously incomplete. The challenges of space are much greater than the same challenges on the surface of the earth. Until there is evidence that we are capable of meeting these challenges on earth, there is little point in attempting to address them in space. If a serious effort is to be made in the development of livable space colonies, research should be started on the design and construction of closed agro-industrial ecosystems on earth. The experimental systems might be two to ten times larger than those expected ultimately to be used in a space colony. This extra size might ease the problem of stabilizing the system over longer periods. Earth based and preliminary orbital experiments should include both aquatic and terrestrial components and should be conducted in an atmosphere simulating in its main features that of the earth. The experiments might use technological approaches in partial recirculation of gases and water. As experience is gained, there is the hope that the techniques developed might be used in the design of cities and in the modernization of existing cities. Although the probability of developing space colonies appears to be extremely remote, we would suggest that the scientific challenges and the magnificent opportunity for exploration intrinsic in that objective are appropriate to the contemporary world. We would agree with others that the time to explore these issues is now and that the answers may prove to be not only exciting but a great boon to earthbound man and to earth-based problems in human ecology.

The product of one large meeting and many individual conversations, this criticism and proposal brings rigorous ecosystem biology into the Space field for the first time. The text and the agreement about the text were carried through largely by Lynn Margulis, George Woodwell, and Dan Botkin. The statement is appearing simultaneously in The Ecological Bulletin. Ecology may slow down Space megaexploration. Space exploration may expand ecological understanding by at last permitting research on progressively more closed ecological systems.


Space agriculture and Space cops

The correspondent is T.A. Heppenheimer, author of Colonies in Space.

I think I can define the core of our disagreement, or our reason for debate. In the CQ, you are accustomed to thinking in terms of natural systems, such as those of the New Alchemists, as promoting healthier human futures. You are accustomed to dealing with the question, "how can we make agriculture more nearly natural and organic, while still preserving reasonable yields?" You want your agriculture to not be energy intensive, or to require the support of advanced technology.

But in space colonization, we take a rather different approach. We want to maximize the yields, period. If we can do it with no advanced technology, fine; if with some advanced technology, fine. If with a lot of advanced technology, also fine. We expect to have at hand plenty of energy and lots of advanced methods, and in practice, the agricultural concepts showing greatest promise appear to be a super-hothouse system which is quite different from the Alkies' work. Instead of a complex interdependent organic web, we appear to envision a sequence of growing plants or animals, tied together with industrial chemical systems which are controllable with a computer. The CO2, the oxygen, the fertilizer, the industrial processing of wastes - all these key features of the problem involve industrial plants rather than green plants.

As one who loves his Granola and his fruit straight from the tree, I can imagine your feelings at such a prospect. But in a larger sense, it represents a response to the space colony situation which is no less valid than the work of the Alkies in the context of their situation. The space colony will be heavily dependent upon advanced technology, rich in energy, rich in the materials which can be obtained from the Moon. Any system of agriculture, to be valid, must reflect these features.

The real question, then, is whether the humanness of the colonists is served or defeated by such a system. I would argue that it will be served. In our modern society, few need labor merely to win the ordinary creature comforts of life; our industrial technique makes it possible for most people to be free from constant concern for life's necessities. In that sense, they have the opportunity (whether they use it or not) to pursue life-styles which will enrich their sense of life. In the space colony, agricultural technology can easily produce such an abundance of food and other necessities as to leave the colonists entirely free from fear that they will come to mishaps. They thus can live in freedom and concern themselves with the possibilities of the High Frontier, rather than ceaselessly worrying that someone, by breaking the rules, will bring disaster to all.

In all this, you can clearly see my unspoken assumptions and attitudes toward technology, industrialization, and the like. Whether or not you share these with me, this is my point of view; and I would welcome an opportunity to present more material (specifically, the chapters in my book on the colony's agriculture, architecture, and social organizations) in CQ.

[ verb deleted ] Tom, you continue to miss my point and the point of this whole magazine. I got in an uproar when you said, ''Agriculture in Space will be no different than a steel mill " because it's such an input-output abiological statement. Aesthetics aside (but not far because there's no surer sign when you're off the path) no organism will be as docile as iron ore - not algae or bacteria or hybrid corn. They are complex systems with ideas of their own and require complex systems around them to stay alive. The level of complexity required is still outside human knowledge much less computer regulatability. No one has successfully maintained a terrarium or other isolated organic system for very long. Hydroponic greenhouses, etc. are richly linked with the rest of the Earth's biosphere. Ecosystem management is still a speculational science like exobiology. What we do know about monocrops is that when they go down, they crash. And you're back to Space Sticks for food. Anyway, continue. . .

. . . We were talking on the phone about the problem of agriculture in space colonies, and the implications for the colony's internal policies. That is: would it be regarded as a robust system, difficult to damage, and hence compatible with human freedom and ordinary human cussedness? Or would it be regarded as being in a delicate balance, requiring close control over the populace to keep them from messing it up?

On to my comments about "Apocalypse Juggernaut, hello."

The Aerospace Corporation is one of those military-industrial places around Los Angeles which grew up during the 1960's. It is distinguished by its display of full-size models of Air Force missiles, out in front; and these indicate its purpose for existence. Its main job is to provide advice to the military on new weapons systems. Once in a while, though, it does work for other agencies, such as NASA.

And so it was that some of the people at Aerospace recently carried out a study on the possible uses for large antennas in Earth orbit. Some of their suggestions were useful and valuable: wrist radios linked by satellite, electronic transmission of some types of mail, checking the location of packages of nuclear fuel. But quite a lot of their ideas gave Stewart Brand the unhappy feeling that 1984 might arrive right on schedule. These included: border surveillance; improved police communications. satellite monitoring of practically everything. So he wrote of his worries, in the article entitled "Apocalypse Juggernaut, hello."

Well, this is the kind of large-scale thinking that needs to be seen in perspective. True, the Aerospace proposals would envision a society very different than that of the U.S. today. But the significant thing is not that Aerospace has put forth its proposals. One can hardly expect them to have done otherwise. The significant thing is that even at this early stage, when the proposals are merely suggestions in a report, they are already being opened to the scrutiny and criticism of the public. It is no new thing that an Air Force contractor should propose to use space technology to turn the U.S. into a police state. It is a new thing that magazines like CQ should learn of these ideas, and criticize them, even before agencies of government can take the first steps to put them into practice.

After all, these suggestions are not official Federal policy, signed, sealed, and ready to roll. They are ideas in a report, and there is not a one of them which will ever fly without considerable support from the public. (Remember the SST.)

So let's look at Aerospace's laundry list and try to sort out the genuinely good ideas from the genuinely dumb ones. What uses for large satellites can genuinely help us?

The wrist-radio idea is an intriguing one. Even if it is literally possible to put a two-way radio in a wrist-size package, the tinny sound of the loudspeaker and the poor performance of its tiny microphone might well make it unpopular. But what is important here is the idea of making telephones portable, like CB radios. Imagine that your telephone, instead of being tied by wires into the Bell System, actually just runs off the wall current and communicates with a little antenna to a big satellite overhead. You could take it off the wall, power it from batteries, run it off the cigarette-lighter socket in your car. All phone calls would go through the satellite, so a call halfway round the world would cost you no more than one next door. With thousands of channels on the satellite, any caller would have the convenience of today's system; there would be no need to call "Breaker, breaker" as in CB, with everyone listening in. The portable telephone would be as major a change as the hand-held computer; and it would probably be something with lots of benefits and few disadvantages. Already much long-distance phoning is carried by microwaves, beamed from tower to tower; this new development would merely complete that process.

But the business of automatically polling the public, or having them vote on issues through their portable phones, does not exactly sound like a good idea. If you want to arrange for Congressmen to sit in their offices and take calls, for free, from their constituents-that's one thing. It would sure beat having to have them go home every weekend. But to have the population polled - "Shall the tarriff bill pass? Shall Title Vl of the Pickle-Pepper bill be adopted" - could only lead to a dangerous oversimplification of the issues. With all its faults, as Edmund Burke pointed out two centuries ago, there is much to be said for a system in which the public laws are written by representatives who maintain a general awareness of the public will, yet who have a necessary degree of independence of judgment.

The idea of locating things by satellite could be useful. Nuclear fuel, railroad cars, trucks of a nationwide road outfit, packages in transit - all would be very useful to be able to track and locate. Homeowners could put little transmitters inside their cars, or other valuable items, and these would be easily tracked if stolen. The problem is that if you can track the car that is stolen, you can also track the car that belongs to the man whose politics you don't like. But there is a solution. The tracking would be keyed to a code, a special string of numbers broadcast by the little transmitter. So what you want is to let the code be chosen by the user, and known only to him, and that it can be changed at will. Then, the police might track a certain code but would have no way of knowing whose it is - until the owner comes and tells them that it identifies his car which has been stolen.

Finally, there are some ideas which are just plain silly. The idea of making our borders super-tight (an electronic Berlin Wall?) is one. Apart from the fact that such an idea isn't exactly sporting - wetbacks are human, too - there's the question of whether this isn't the same old idiocy from the same geniuses in the Pentagon who gave us the "people sniffers" for Vietnam. The Vietnamese people foiled these by hanging bags of urine or feces near them. If Aerospace is proposing a new type of detector to discover the sound of footfalls, then it's easy to predict the Border Patrol will spend a lot of time chasing jackrabbits and coyotes.

In his article, Stewart Brand raised the question, "All that satellite monitoring means too much control; who is worried about that, who is thinking about limiting it? Who is concerned about protecting privacy or freedom?"

His question gives its own answer. He is concerned; so are his readers; so, in turn, will be much of the public when such matters are brought forth into open debate. It is not new that people should propose to regiment or survey the public at very intimate levels of their lives. What is new is the unprecedented public discussion such proposals now receive, even at the earliest stages of their genesis.

T. A. Heppenheimer
Center for Space Science
Fountain Valley, California

Space agriculture retort

I enjoyed the Fall '76 CQ. I notice that Holt and Heppenheimer are at it again. At least Holt is beginning to develop a degree of humility about his expertise in the fields of physics and electrical engineering. (By the way, O'Neill's group is studying linear synchronous, not linear induction motors for the transport linear accelerator.) Planetary scientist Heppenheimer, however, is more certain than ever that he knows all about agriculture in space!

As the unwitting soul who turned Tom Heppenheimer on to the references he used for his chapter on space farming, it looks like it's my time to speak up. It may be true that a closed cycle agriculture could be set up using non-biological techniques to recycle liquid, solid and gaseous wastes. But I have not been able to find any reports of such a system having been put into operation for an extended period. Whether or not such a system will work is open to speculation. However, I also object to those who state a priori that 1iving ecosystems could not possibly be held together with plumbing and chemicals. Why can't the debaters on both sides just admit to not knowing (yet)?

The University of Arizona has an interdisciplinary team, under under the direction of systems engineering professor Wayne Wymore which has tackled the "space farm" problem. In Wayne's eyes, the worst possible sin is to rush on to solutions before you know what the problems are. Our team is considering problems such as: what happens when there is a fire in the colony (the smoke won't just "go away"!) If someone dumps a lead battery in the trash, will people be eating it in the form of spinach 3 months later? What about the effects of spray deodorants? (The Navy banned aerosol cans from their nuclear submarines - which are semi-closed environments - long before anyone else noticed they were bad news!).

Of course, no amount of library research and mouth flapping and typewriter key pounding will uncover all problems.

NASA's Phillip Quatrone, Chief of the Environmental Control Branch, has suggested that we let the astronauts of the mid-eighties grow vegetables in their space base. Those first lettuce and tomato plants can tell us how well they do or don't like their habitat far more eloquently than any assemblage of ecologists or chemical engineers.

After all, life didn't leap from the seas and blanket the land overnight. It was a gradual process. I imagine the "greening" of space will be similar, with the forests and fields of the O'Neill style settlements evolving from the house plants and vegetable gardens of the early space bases.

Now, to get back to the subject of Holt: I was not entirely surprised by his belief that O'Neill thinks space colonies will solve all problems. It reminds me of a conference this summer where O'Neill was being grilled by a panel of professors and NASA officials. one professor smugly announced he was going to be the bad guy and shoot O'Neill down. He read aloud an article he said was written by O'Neill. The article claimed that it had been proven that space colonies would solve the energy crisis, bring world peace, cure dandruff, etc. Finishing, he then demanded of O'Neill how he could have written such an atrocity. "But I didn't write that article," Gerry replied mildly. Gerard O'Neill has never claimed anything more outrageous than that we ought to consider whether space colonies might solve some of our problems. In spite of this rather unmessiah-like stance, there are those who believe Gerry is greater than Jesus and Moses combined and are desperate to touch the hem of his robe. When O'Neill catches them at it he banishes them to Siberia....

Carolyn Meinel Henson
L5 Society
Tucson, Arizona

The smile of Timothy Leary

Timothy Leary - I have always been an admirer of him although bored by most of his books except Psychedelic Prayers and Neurologic - a racy quality about him, a recklessness, his breathless LIFE IN THE FAST LANE attitude, the rascal cum scoundrel image has a certain romantic attraction if you don't go into the details (and romance never does) - he once said to Baba Ram Dass, "it seems to me as the years go by that you are getting gooder and gooder and I'm getting badder and badder"

ANYWAY, this time around Leary, the HOUDINI of the HALLUCINOGENIC set and setting, the I AM NOT A CROOK of the counter-culture, has escapologised himself into yet another day-glo corner - FRONT MAN for NASA and AMERIKAN INDUSTRIAL HARDWARE, SALESMAN for SPACE-CARS and SPACED-OUT ORBITING BIONIC PLANETOIDS where Leary (talking faster, slowing down) envisages a continuance of the ALL-AMERICAN ALL OUT CONSUMPTION AS THE ROAD TO HAPPINESS DREAMMARE - SMALL is not BEAUTIFUL in Leary's eyes, the ECOLOGY movement is JUST a piece of shit, limitation on consumption is a limitation on vision and expansion of consciousness, and seeing the EARTH is now too small for its population, it is time to MIGRATE to space MIGRATION is MUTATION, the EARTH is merely the COCOON, we are CATERPILLERS who now are ready to METAMORPHoSE into BUTTERFLIES and fly off into SPACE- although SPACE to Leary now seems only to mean these orbiting colonies, perfect Yosemites up there beyond the constricting laws of gravity, using current technology. No STAR TREK DREAMS, NO TIME TRAVEL, NO MORE JOURNEYS TO THE CENTER OF THE HEAD, just EASY LIVING with the ELITE in the ULTIMATE IN SUBURBAN LIVING, the SWIMMING POOL in SPACE, and he PROMISED we Marin Mutants, successful survivors of the sixties, if not immortality, at least RESORT-VISITS for gravity-free golf within the next twenty five years. Leary is a SMARTIST (smart was his favourite word for the evening) a man in a HURRY, particularly for someone who is into IMMORALITY- you would think he had ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD and advocate of the POLITICS OF ABUNDANCE, NO FOOL (just slightly ridiculous), a man with a PATTER and a PLETHORA OF POSES, including lots of COLLEGE JOCK HANDWAVING (they looked like stop-signals) and CLASSY GURU GRINNING (slightly crooked these days) and PAUSING FOR APPLAUSE, a STAND-UP COMEDIAN and with the sort of lecture he gave on Friday he would be PERFECT at the CIRCUS-CIRCUS or CAESARS PALACE in LAS VEGAS. He certainly was ENTERTAINING, skittering along on the surface of the ultimate topics, hinting at DEPTH and SECRETS but not delivering anything of any substance, a GADFLY with the gift of the GAB... and I could go on and on I'm afraid but I will stop and mention that I managed to struggle downtown last night to see MIRACLE IN MILAN which is a real HEART and FOOT WARMER, made by Vittorio de Sica in 195O, a fantasy about the PEOPLE gettting the better of the PROPERTY DEVELOPERS - at the end, incidentally, the PEOPLE all go off into outer space, leaving the earth and Milan to the cigar smoking top hatted industrialists. Maybe there is something in SPACE MIGRATION after all.

Jim Anderson Nameless Hearsay News

Space just means bigger weapons

. . . Clausewitz once said something to the effect that war was too important to leave to the generals. The point I am trying to make in my communications to you and in the book which I will write is that science is too important to leave to the scientists. One reason why science is too important to leave to the scientists is that the scientists have shown that they are not very smart, far-seeing, or imaginative in guessing the kinds of uses that the military will make of their Magic Toys. An example is the laser, which, as you may recall, when it first appeared was called the Maser. As soon as I read the first descriptions of this device, I thought to myself, "At last we have the death ray that the science fiction people have been talking about for so many years." But not for at least five years afterward did I ever read or hear of any people in the scientific community itself suggesting that this new invention might be used for such a purpose. It is only in the last year, and perfectly predictably, that military research on lasers has begun to come out of the closet. Both in this country and in Russia military scientists are working round the clock to get this thing perfected. . .

. . . ln addition to anything else that might be said against it most of so-called peaceful space research is simply military research wearing a smile button. It is a hawk in dove's clothing.

I can just hear the L-5 boys (and girls too, I suppose) saying sometime in the future, as nuclear powered laser carrying space ships start cruising around out there "But we never thought anything like this would happen."

I am not much impressed with the rhapsodizing and poetic thoughts of the first astronauts. The first people who flew above the Earth in airplanes used to talk very much the same way, about a newer and purer world, about being nearer to God about realizing how petty and unimportant were those quarrels and so forth going on below. The fact is, in a world that has not learned to make peace, whatever has war-making possibilities will be used for war making purposes. To suppose that space is going to reform, all by itself, the character of human beings reminds me of nothing so much as those fatuous political commentators who thought that the White House would reform the character of Richard Nixon. If there is military advantage to be had in space, and there clearly is, then nations seeking for military advantage will try to get it there. If there is wealth to be had in space, which for the moment I doubt, then nations which are battling each other for the Earth's wealth will battle for wealth out there.

John Holt
Boston, Massachusetts

John, one out of every five space shuttle flights is expected to be for military use.


8 am of the world

Keith Hensen of the L-5 Society sent us a talk by Peter Vajk that has some interesting points on the Space question. The talk was given at Southern Illinois University in April, 1976.

Let's consider again those remarkable Apollo photographs of the Earth. I have already remarked on the new perception of the Earth and the biosphere which these pictures have produced, but I want to call your attention to another new perception which is latent in these pictures. Once you see this, you can never again fail to see it.

The unity of Earth is prominent in this picture. But what's in the OTHER half of the picture? IT'S FULL OF SUNLIGHT! Space is not a pitch black void - every cubic meter is filled with solar energy. The next time you look at the Moon on a dark night, you will SEE that all the surrounding space is likewise illuminated. . .

The old analogy in which the 5 billion years of the Earth's history to date is compressed into a single year, with all of recorded history happening in the last five minutes before midnight on December 31st, is perhaps deceptive, in that it suggests that we are rapidly approaching some imminent endpoint. If instead we take the past 5 billion years of the Earth's history together with the 10 billion years or so in the future that the Sun is expected to last permitting survival of the Earth as a planet, and if we compress that 15 billion years into a single day, then it is now 8 o'clock in the morning, the biosphere has just woken up, and the workday is only beginning!. . . The statement "We have only one Earth" is radically different in its implications from the assertion "We have only the Earth." The former recognizes the uniqueness and sacredness of the Earth and its biosphere among the other heavenly bodies; the latter denies the existence, for any practical purpose whatsoever, of the rest of the universe, and it seems, has now become as obsolete and outdated as the pre-Copernican view of the Earth as the Center of the Universe.

Limits to Growth - wronger than ever

Peter Vajk is one of the more thorough, original and enthusiastic analysts of Space Colony effects. In the Spring of '76 he wrote a piece called "Space Colonies, Ethics and People" which applied Limits-to-Growth computer modelling to the subject. Here is the 1977 update of that .


At one time, it seemed that exhaustion of non-renewable resources, especially metals, would result in the collapse of the human socioeconomic system within a few decades. If that were true, then we would have only a brief "window" in history during which we could take the extraterrestrial option O'Neill showed us was possible. Industrial, technological society would have to reach a large enough, sufficiently sophisticated state to build a necessary beachhead in space, but could not long defer that option or our descendants would forever after be trapped on this single planet, deprived by our inaction of a choice they might make differently than we had. If the principal assumptions incorporated in such computer models as had been used in the study The Limits of Growth were true, it would be irresponsible not to start in immediately on a large-scale program to establish civilzation in space.

In my original article in the CQ, I expressed serious misgivings about the validity of such computer models and about their basic assumptions. My own computer modeling was this in a sense, a parody of Forrester and of Meadows et al. which serves to show that such models can be used to "prove" any conclusion you like. (in fact, I had to restrain myself from making the answers come out even a hundred times better yet.)

The basic assumption of the M.I.T. models which produces collapse is that non-renewable resources are in imminent danger of depletion. In the last year and a half, this entire question has been carefully reconsidered by many different groups, and it is now clear that industrial, technologically advanced civilization here on Earth could be sustained, at a North American standard of living, for a population of 10 to 20 billion people, for as much as several million years. (H.E. Goeller and Alvin M. Weinberg spell this out in some detail in an article "The Age of Substitutability", Science 191, 683, February 20, 1976). In the age of technological substitutability of virtually inexhaustible matierals for scarce materials, society would be based on wood, glass, stone, cement, plastics iron, aluminum, and magnesium. The energy costs associated with going to lower grade ores would not exceed a two-fold increase per ton of finished metal above present costs.

The space options have, then, three long-term motivations:

  1. global "insurance" against a major calamity, whether of natural or artificial origins;
  2. removal of adverse environmental impacts of industrial activities from the biosphere; and
  3. satisfaction of the very human need to explore. These motivations will not justify the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars for the establishment of space manufacturing facilities and lunar or asteroidal mining equipment.

But a number of short-term justifications will, I believe, bring us to the same point within two or three decades all the same These include (1) short-term profitability of increasingly large communications satellite systems; (2) international development programs based on Earth-observation satellites such as Landsat; (3) high profitability of new, unique, or improved products possible in the space environment during the 1980's with the Space Shuttle; or (4) political decisions to shift, with the Soviets, military spending into space programs. The combined effects of such programs could very well reduce the incremental cost to build O'Neill's Island One to a scale well within the reach of corporate investments by the late 1980's or early 1990's.


Whether or not solar power satellites will be necessary to meet terrestrial energy needs is now less clear than a year and a half ago, but the economic and environmental features of these satellites still appear very attractive. In referring to the firewood crisis in the Third World, I rashly stated, "No other energy technology presently foreseen (can substitute for excessive use of wood and dung)." I have since been educated on such alternatives as carefully managed village woodlots and more efficient stoves, but I still believe that solar power satellites could be a valuable tool in ecodevelopment of the Third World.

-J. Peter Vajk
Science Applications, Inc.
Pleasanton, California

Grandiose failure

When I read Dr. O'Neill's description of the space colonies, I was reminded of how I first felt about the plans for the Bay Area Rapid Transit.

BART was supposed to relieve traffic congestion in the Bay Area, offer transbay service by 1969, cost about $990 million, and operate at a profit. It was to be state-of-the-art technology as they say. It was obvious to me that anyone who did not endorse BART had to be very shortsighted. In 1962, a $790 million obligation bond was narrowly approved by district voters for the construction of the system.

In 1974, a taxpayers' suit and a supplier's strike later, we finally got our transbay service. At last count, the cost of BART had risen to $1,620 million. it will always operate at a deficit. State-of-the-art technology means that when the tracks are damp, the computers go out for coffee.

But the biggest disappointment is that BART did not ease congestion. While we were busy solving the technological problems of BART, the Bay Area just kept on growing (especially around the suburban BART stations). The Metropolitan Transportation Commission estimated that BART's contribution to the reduction of commuter traffic over the Bay Bridge was on the order of one year's recent traffic growth. This small initial decrease was promptly wiped out because it encouraged transbay trips which otherwise would not have been made.

Despite its problems, BART was probably the best technological solution available for relieving congestion in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, technology is not enough. If we are willing to spend enough time and money, we probably can put colonies into space. The effort might stimulate the economy and keep some engineers out of mischief. That's fine with me. But I don't feel that these space colonies are going to save us. We are going to have to make some hard decisions concerning growth down here on the ground - and the sooner we get around to it, the better.

But to you space people - bon voyage. Thanks for giving up your places. Appreciate it.

Graham Holmboe
Berkeley, California

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