The character of life is rooted in the architecture of one’s habitat. By ‘architecture’, we mean more than just the design and aesthetic of buildings but the structure of one’s environment as a whole, the way the elements of daily life integrate and work, the way these effect how one fulfills one’s needs and desires, and sometimes how they modify those needs and desires. The character of urban life in the past has been greatly influenced by the basic mode of structural organization in cities. There are distinct cultural and lifestyle differences between the so-called Old World and New World cities that relates strongly to the differences in the way they organize space and how that organization impacts the psyche and social perspective of the inhabitant. As we begin to settle space very new and different strategies for the architecture of habitat must be employed to accommodate a radically different environment with perhaps the most radical of differences being the condition of microgravity. How these new habitats will impact their inhabitants’ lives cannot be totally anticipated but in this section we will attempt to explore this as best we can in the context of the lifestyles that are likely to be cultivated there.
Ancient cities tended to evolve in an organic manner rooted in a hierarchy of shared open spaces; atriums, courts, squares and plazas. These open spaces represented the functional ‘front’ of dwellings with streets relegated to the role of transportation and demarcation ‘behind’ the spaces where most activity was taking place. Hence the stereotypical narrow dark winding streets of the old European and even older Middle Eastern city. These were very social environments because they minimized anonymity and leant themselves to a very specific hierarchy between private and public space. With origins often in tribal villages and with little bureaucratic regulation until modern times, these communities were left to a kind of continuous social negotiation of their use of space, resulting in a quirkiness of architecture that, by its structure, communicated much about the history of communities. Many architects and sociologists have commented on the ‘humanity’ of the old city compared to modern cities. But their inward focus on a hierarchy of shared spaces also leant itself to a kind of ‘balkanization’ of the urban society along lines of class, cultural, and ethnic groups which could wall-off regions of the city, either for their own shelter or as a means of controlling other groups. They were also inefficient and sometimes dangerous in their transit flow, making them potential death-traps in the event of fires and natural disasters and in their concentration and communication of disease.
Rooted in the use of a standardized street grid, the Industrial Age city was originally intended to be a safer and more egalitarian environment. It was a wall-less city where the street became the default ‘front’ of all buildings and any enclosed open spaces private and ‘behind’. Broad open and light-filled streets made movement through the city easier and enabled the use of mechanized transportation. But it was a center-less city with no socially mediating spaces between the private and the totally public environment, making it as much an ‘anonymizer’ of people as an equalizer. The street became the dispersed center of public activity but in competition with its primary role of transportation, later putting human transportation in conflict with vehicle transportation. Intended to be free of class and ethnic balkanization, its inflexibility in area division encouraged a balkanization along lines of altitude. Class divisions became height division as the wealthier could live progressively higher above the noise and confusion of the street –and increasingly anonymous to the situations of those closer to the ground –a situation so cleverly parodied in the urban futurist fairytale of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Many writers have suggested that most of the ills of contemporary urban life –from vandalism to crime, pollution, traffic congestion, and the often deliberate engineering of slums– relate to its ‘centerlessness’ and the social alienation, ‘anonymization’, and class indifference this environment encourages. These have become unsolvable problems when –now dominated by tyrannies of self-interested and chronically corrupt bureaucracies– cities have no ability to evolve through any functional social negotiation.
With Asgard our civilization is confronted with a very interesting new prospect. What is the character of life in a volumetrically organized urban environment? A place with no up or down. No floors or ceilings, ground or sky. How does one organize such space and how will that organization impact the psychology, culture, and society of its inhabitants? What can we learn from urban environments of the past? Can we avoid their chronic problems?
And, make no mistake, we are talking about an urban habitat. There is a common but largely unrealistic fantasy among members of the space advocacy community that the settlement of space will somehow be akin to the homesteading of the western American frontier, with individuals flying out to the new frontier in personal spacecraft and building personal space stations and lunar and planetary homesteads. The fundamental illogic of this given the nature of the space environment and the limitations of even anticipated technology should be obvious, but the fantasy persists thanks to the influence of the western frontier mythology long cultivated in the US. While development over the course of Asgard will certainly involve much entrepreneurship, it will not involve anything even remotely close to the fantasy of the western homestead. The settlements of Asgard will all be villages and cities. Only the cybernetic ‘transhumans’ of the more distant future will have the means to settle space single-handedly –though little likely incentive to do so. So we must understand that life in space will, most definitely, be conducted in an urban habitat.
Swinging on a branch:
How, then, does one organize space in a gravity-less volumetric environment? The dominant constraint is the need for interconnectedness of structure. Orbital structures and systems must either be contiguous in structure or they must have a means of propulsion to support active station-keeping to maintain constant relative positions of portions of a disconnected structure or system –which becomes increasingly difficult the more individual structures must co-exist in some proximity to each other. The superhabitats of the more distant Solaria phase may be large enough to facilitate the use of fairly large disconnected actively positioned structures within a large pressurized atmosphere but through most of the Asgard phase this will not be a practical option except for largely independent structures in ambient space orbiting as a ‘fleet’. Thus the typical orbital habitat will likely be a contiguous structure with everything connected to something else in some way. A contiguous orbital megastructure.
Throughout the various articles on the Asgard phase we will hear two concepts mentioned repeatedly; the Core Truss and the Urban Tree. These will be the essential elements of architecture both for space habitats and spacecraft throughout the Asgard phase. The Core Truss refers to a central truss column or beam running the length of a structure and through the volume of enclosures or pressurized hull systems and serving as the primary retrofit attachment point for all subsystems and equipment. The simplest structure one can assemble in space and use as the basis of some functional system is a space frame truss beam. If, for instance, one wanted to assemble a fairly large satellite on orbit from parts sent up individually (because your launch system wasn’t big enough to carry the whole thing at once) you would most likely do it by building a simple truss beam and then attaching the other components of the satellite –solar panels, computers, attitude and orbital correction thrusters, telecom transponders, and their antenna– to this frame by plugging them into the frame nodes or clamping them onto its struts. This, of course, is where the idea for the Modular Unmanned Orbital Laboratory - MUOL comes from. It would start out as a structure exactly like this, a single truss beam.
Taking this same concept further to the use of a pressurized habitat people can live in we arrive at the design of TransHab style pneumatic habitats where an inflatable pressure skin is initially rigidized by a central rigid structure to which hatch port bulkheads are attached on end caps. The TransHab is an evolution of the ancient concept of a tent. A tent is based on the idea that flexible materials can serve adequately as a shield against weather but they have no rigidity of their own. So a separate structure must provide that rigidity to allow this flexible material to enclose space. By decoupling these two functions –weather shield and rigid structure– it becomes easy to make a structure demountable and portable. One can take the rigid parts apart and fold or roll up the fabric of the tent and it all packs away into a tiny volume compared to the space it enclosed when put together. This works in four possible modes of rigid structure that can be employed individually or in any combination; an internal core structure as demonstrated by a circus tent, an internal enclosure structure as demonstrated by geodesic dome tents, and external tension structure as demonstrated by pier-supported tension roofs, and the tensegrity structure where rigid structures function as compression elements while flexible material serves as tension elements to create an overall rigid structure.
By decoupling the functions of pressure containment and shielding from rigid structure, a TransHab structure can use flexible materials for the former function and reduce the latter function to small modular parts or foldable structures, allowing the whole thing to pack into a much smaller volume. (though it must be noted most current TransHab designs don’t yet fully realize their potential compactness) With a hull system based on flexible materials (at least until deployed whereupon many current hull systems of this type self-rigidize with a semi-rigid foam), it becomes possible to fabricate parts and deploy new structure from within other existing structures –which addresses that essential problem of living in the space environment that you can’t make anything in space that’s bigger than can fit through a pressure hatch, though in the early phases of Asgard most of these types of habitats will probably be prefabricated on Earth.
Being the simplest strategy for building such things in space from modular parts, virtually every habitat, system, and inter-orbital spacecraft developed in the Asgard phase may ultimately feature some variation of this core truss architecture, thus lending the name ‘beamships’ to the collective family of Asgard spacecraft.
The Urban Tree concept is an evolution of the Core Truss concept. It is a very large core truss elaborated by many radiating branches and attached structures to the point where it assumes the appearance of a kind of tree and takes on the role of not just the primary rigid structure of a habitat but also the primary transit and infrastructure route through this structure and means of access to the features attached to its exterior –just as all the leaves and such of a living tree are connected by the vascular system that runs through its branches and trunk. In space, such a structure may be subdivided into individually enclosed sections or ‘modules’ or it can be collectively enclosed by one to a few large enclosures. In other words, the structures that make up the trunk, branches, and leaves on the tree might all be individually and independently enclosed and pressurized along this shape, as is demonstrated by the branching module structure of classic ‘tin can’ space stations like the ISS. Or the whole, or major portions, of structure may be enclosed in an overall pressure shell enclosing in a collective pressurized environment most or all of the tree structure and joined at the trunk. This is illustrated by Marshal Savage’s original Asgard habitat concept, with its vast transparent bubble hull, polar axial core column, and internal radiating compartments. As Asgard habitats evolve, they will employ both of these strategies but since it will always be easier to do the work of adapting structures within large pressurized spaces (since you don’t have to put on a space suit to do it or try moving around extremely large individual pieces), and larger pressurized structures have larger atmosphere reserves making small hull punctures less critical in their time to repair, the evolution of Asgard habitats will likely favor progressively large individual habitat spaces. This will evolve over time into the EvoHab; essentially a gigantic TransHab module that hosts an open Urban Tree inside it and which would reduce individual dwellings and other buildings, equipment, and systems to ‘leaves’ and ‘fruit’ on the branches of this collectively tree.
Thus we arrive at a general theory of organizing space in space as a system of truss-based tree-like structures in a hierarchy of primary axial forms, secondary radiating branches, and retrofit elements attaching to them all within various scales of pressure enclosure and with this tree-like structure serving as the primary transit and infrastructure conduit. Given this general approach, lets now consider the nature and design of the individual dwelling and how it would relate to this eventual larger superstructure.
The early Valhalla stage of manned space habitat –as demonstrated by the ‘tin can’ habitats of the present– would tend to be limited to networks of discrete habitat modules whose small size and industrial minimalism would limit their potential partitioning. Like the simple shelters of frontier explorers, individual modules would have to serve as communal living space, trading personal privacy for essential shelter at the greatest economy. Many of the first beamship spacecraft and manned orbital factories would likely employ this approach. Here one or more single-beam habitat modules would serve as shelter for a number of people with personal space limited to locker storage and individual sleeping compartments deployed inside portions of the core truss or ‘sleep socks’ strung hammock-like from the outside of the core truss. Some TransHab modules would be designed to feature an ‘expanded’ core truss. Here the core truss would be sized such that it encloses the primary functional volume of the habitat module with a relatively small gap between its outside and the inside of the pressure hull. This type would often be used for dedicated work spaces where this expanded truss volume provides an interior rack-mounting surface for equipment.
With the advent of on-orbit space tourism, the simple habitat module will become the unit ‘suite’ for the individual patron, arrayed in clusters around hub modules. Desiring space for large windows which, initially, will only be suited to mounting on flat rigid material structure like hatches and end-cap bulkheads, these suite modules would tend to employ the expanded truss approach where, combined with radial hub connectors, one end of the module can be left free to host a large, perhaps domed, window while the truss structure is concealed under finish panels made of some soft appealing material. This approach allows for a great deal of independence in interior design from the basic structure of the habitat unit, even though the generally small size of the habitat unit will limit how much deviation from the overall form is possible. A typical suite design may thus take the form of a soft-walled cylindrical volume with a back partition containing bathroom, a large window hatch at the end, and a single ‘hard panel’ equipment strip running the length of the main space and hosting the electronics and mechanicals needed for the suite; ventilator ducts, video displays, personal computer, communications, and entertainment system, lighting, and so on. Storage and deployable fixtures would be concealed in compartments behind the soft panels. Sleeping ‘pouches’ would be similarly located, though patrons may also choose sleeping in the free space of the suite. These modules would be designed to function as completely self-contained survival modules in the event of some accident. Such suites may present an early model for the design of later dwellings
As progressively larger versions of these kinds of habitat structures are deployed, new approaches to creating personal space would be explored based on compartmentalizing these larger unit spaces. A Japanese Capsule Hotel strategy may be employed where the core of the habitat becomes a shared corridor for a series of personal dwelling compartments whose entry portals line the ‘walls’ of the corridor, concealing a core truss. Radiating outward from this center space, the individual compartments would feature a main space surrounded by compartments used for storage and such filling the interstitial space created between the radiating main chambers. These would be fabricated of a combination of rigid truss or formed panel parts, semi-rigid foams, soft foams, and fabrics with most infrastructure systems running on the outside of the compartments. Initial habitats of such design are likely to be windowless but later forms may allow for the addition of clamped window modules cutting through the fabric hull of the deployed and rigidized habitat module. This sort of work could potentially be partly done in a shirt-sleeve environment as long as precision mounting points for the clamps were pre-marked on the hull skins. With their frames clamped tight before the hull material is cut, they would continue to maintain pressure even as they are installed. These window frames would then link to the end of the main chamber of these unit dwellings, providing each with a private window. This approach, however, would be more likely for hotel accommodations than for general residence use where the need for more frequent adaptation of interior space would supercede the desire for personal windows.
Cultivation of the Tree:
Networks of discrete habitat modules have a problem with their evolution in that as older modules become surrounded by younger modules it becomes difficult or impossible to replace them yet they will tend to wear-out long before their younger attachments. This is a problem that tends to doom the ‘tin can’ space stations to untimely obsolescence since they offer no way to replace modules in-place and no means to temporarily dismantle them. They survive only for as long as their oldest parts can. Today’s ISS is probably doomed to a fate similar to the earlier Mir station, and, ironically, probably at about the same time its planned structure is ultimately completed since the process has been allowed to become so protracted. But with TransHab systems based on adaptable space frame core structures, this problem is overcome by allowing for the creation of temporary bridge or scaffold structures that maintain unity of a structure even as in-line portions of it are replaced. Ultimately, it will become more practical to develop systems that can be assembled and demounted in smaller increments and where external truss structures are used to provide redundancy for internal ones, affording more potential structural attachment points to allow easier bridging for in-line reconstruction. This is the basic idea behind the structural systems of the EvoHab.
With the introduction of EvoHab hull systems, which would have their pressurized hull shell fabricated in-situ, the scale of habitat enclosures would become truly vast and the core truss structures passing through them and linking to the exterior would become quite wide, their external portions large enough to host large open framed docking ‘terminals’ and industrial facilities. Though initially likely to be employed in the manner of specialized ‘megamodules’ dedicated to the activities of residence, work, and such and which can be individually sealed in an emergency, they are likely to merge together with their individual expansion and evolve into extremely vast structures using just a few main compartments dominated by a main residential sphere, ultimately giving the EvoHab an external form quite similar to that of the classic Bernal Sphere colony proposed in the 1970s but, of course, not a rotating structure except for the possible addition of internal ‘gravity decks’ which rotate independently of the main structure. The large core trusses would become both a primary transit conduit and host to a lot of facilities enclosed in its volume while other structures would branchiate and radiate around it. Perhaps up to three tiers of branch trusses may be employed in the overall Urban Tree design.
The individual dwelling or specialized building –though still relying on and connected to a primary habitat superstructure– would become more self-contained and have more of the characteristics of a built-up structure as opposed to a one-piece prefabricated unit. In other words, it would start to take on the characteristics of the freestanding building even though part of a contiguous habitat megastructure. Though potentially highly diverse as personal and group expressions of aesthetics as well as for functional reasons, such dwellings will likely combine characteristics and construction of the earlier Capsule Hotel style dwellings –relying on a similar combination of soft wall and supporting space frame materials– with the compartmentalized organization of typical buildings, forming complexes of more-or-less specialized chambers around an axial or spherical core chamber or a planar space that may be broad in two axis but limited to a narrow dimension on one axis. Since this would be a shirt-sleeve environment throughout, there would be no need for environmental shelter in the conventional sense. These structures and dwellings would only serve the purpose of privacy and the functional organization of space, though some portions of them may be designed to function as a pressure habitat independent of the rest of the habitat in the event of emergencies.
With the introduction of such vast habitat enclosures, a new topological paradigm emerges –an outside space. Up until this point, orbital habitats would be all interior. The outside would be the inaccessible vacuum of space one would only view through a small number of windows or enter wearing a space suit, using some small utility spacecraft –a service ‘pod’ as Marshal Savage envisioned– or in a telepresence fashion using a telerobot. With such vast pressurized spaces a new kind of interior outside becomes apparent –especially when using spherical habitat forms. The space between the core truss and the hull becomes a new exterior volume and buildings attaching to the Urban Tree brachiating into that space now would have both a functional interior and a visible exterior. Marshal Savage hoped to extend this impression by bringing the true outside of space inside to the shirtsleeve environment through the use of a transparent hull. The EvoHab, as will be discussed in its own section, may ultimately do likewise by employing a light and image transmitting hull system, even if the hull itself is a composite structure of opaque materials.
Given these vast interior environments dwellings will now have to be designed with consideration for both an interior and exterior aesthetic. This ‘inside outdoors’ will become the primary view space –personal windows to the true exterior being impractical unless in the form of virtual windows– and designers will be compelled to consider the exterior surface of the dwelling as part of its functional space, inventing new structures to assume the role of terraces and balconies as conventional buildings use them.
We can also expect to see the desire for an attractive ‘outdoor’ habitat encourage the use of gardening to enhance the look and feel of the environment –though in microgravity this will require quite different technology from gardening on Earth, employing hydroponics and using the superstructure of the habitat as an anchor structure for plants and their support systems just as it is for equipment and dwellings. To many inhabitants the notion of an Urban Tree will become a literal analogy as they seek to create the impression of a microgravity garden habitat in which to reside. With a convergence of the technologies of ‘planching’, biotechnology, and nanotechnology later in the history of the Asgard phase, this Urban Tree idea may become very literal indeed as it becomes possible to completely subsume a core truss structure with contiguous living plant tissue, turning the Urban Tree into a literal spherical tree of vast proportions.
But vast interior spaces are not necessarily functional in a microgravity environment. For a long time the design of spacecraft has been constrained by the issue of the need for humans to vault themselves between hand-holds to move about in microgravity. As a general rule, few spaces in any spacecraft built to date have had spans larger than the average head-to-toe height of an individual human so that movement is easy, fixtures are easily accessible, and one is less likely to get ‘stuck’ in the middle of a space with everything out of reach. This is a factor that so complicates the ergonomics of doing so much human activity in microgravity that even the mechanics of the act of sexual intercourse must be considered in the effective design of a microgravity dwelling. So while many fanciful images of future life in space portray humans flying about in vast habitats like birds, such spaces will be much reduced in practical use and present a hazard of people being trapped in free space out of reach of any handholds. There are likely to be many solutions explored for this problem; worn personal nitrogen thrusters, similarly propelled utility robots that can be called for assistance, and so on. But in general most of the activity of the large orbital habitat will be confined to its Urban Tree and the close-spaced vias of movement it affords. The outer large span volumes may tend to be limited to a very small number of recreational activities where special gear and skills will compensate for this hazard –minor as it may be. In some ways this situation may be akin to living on the shores of a large lake or bay where the space offers a nice view but, without a boat, you are limited to doing things on the shore.
Another issue associated with large volume microgravity spaces is that of social assembly; the gathering of large numbers of people for communal activity. Because the lack of gravity compels people to move hand-to-hand, it becomes difficult to create such things as a large court, square, or the like in this environment, precluding large gatherings. How does one create a theater, a lecture hall, a ‘dance’ hall, or the like in microgravity? Such concepts will require novel solutions when, in general, people require opposing surfaces to vault or pull oneself about, whereas in a gravity environment we count on friction to let us walk about on a single planar surface. This may make the habitat of the Urban Tree rather spare of large area casual meeting spaces –an important fact in terms of the overall cultural and social environment of the space habitat.
Given this general picture of the architecture of space habitats and dwellings in them, we can consider the lifestyles these environments might present.
The dominant lifestyle factor for the early inhabitants of Asgard will be the limitation on the amount of time they can spend in space due to the issue of Space Wasting –the deterioration of the human body in a microgravity environment. Though in the original TMP Marshal Savage anticipated otherwise, no simple clinical solution to this issue has emerged or seems likely to in the immediate future and so early orbital settlement inhabitants will effectively be transient, constantly oscillating between space and Earth according to a schedule dictated by their individual pace of physical deterioration in space and their pace of recovery from that on Earth –much as is the case with today’s space station astronauts. Radiation exposure too will be a factor in this, with lifetime radiation exposures needing to be monitored and with some individuals facing prohibition from space travel should they suffer large radiation exposures. Consequently, in TMP2 we envision the marine settlements of Aquarius as very close companions to the initial habitats in space by virtue of serving as the ‘closest’ terrestrial communities to those in space and thus the logical location for people living a ‘binary’ lifestyle on the new frontier. Marine settlements will be where the first residents of space live when they aren’t in space, serving well as places for recovery from the effects of Space Wasting while the unique system of property rights established through the Foundation CIC will allow people to migrate freely without concern for the variable fungibility of conventional property.
But this binary lifestyle will not be without its problems even with Aquarius providing a terrestrial haven for the early spacefarers. Early space settlements will be very work-oriented. People will be severely limited in their on-orbit duration not only by Space Wasting but by the rudimentary nature of their dwellings and the high stress and demanding work pace for early orbital facilities. The in-space portion of people’s lives will be short and focused entirely on work activity. There won’t be families inhabiting these early facilities. In fact, children may be prohibited from living in space for any protracted period for some time until the effects of the space environment on their development becomes clear. Usually, the transient inhabitants of the early Valhalla facilities will consider themselves residents of Aquarius who treat their in-space time as special distant work that’s an extension of terrestrial ventures –like the workers on oil platforms or fishermen who may spend months at sea but don’t ‘live’ there. Where spouses share a space vocation, they may trade-off their individual shifts between family care and orbital work.
As new techniques extend people’s duration on orbit and the design of dwellings there more sophisticated and comfortable, vocational venues in space and on Earth will become increasingly independent and people will need to take up and abandon largely independent jobs. Space-based businesses will have little choice but to accept the situation of a constant cycling of all staff. It comes with the nature of the environment. For terrestrial businesses, though, this would be akin to losing workers to a distant war and may not be tolerable for many traditional business models. Today the notion of ‘taking a hiatus’ is something limited to the upper-classes. It’s practical only for people who, to be frank, really aren’t all that important to the day-to-day operation of a business and fear no strife from a suspension or lessening of income. Again, the cultural/social imperative of space development throughout the marine communities of Aquarius will mean more willingness to accommodate such complications in the management of terrestrial businesses. As cultivators of a Post-Industrial culture in general, the notion of hiatus will be commonplace among the residents of these communities for many reasons and situations beyond those of space. But outside that accommodating cultural environment, where the Industrial Age culture is likely to persist in many nations for a longer period, the early spacefarers may face far less understanding. This may result in some shift of the global talent base for space development to the sea as the productivity advantages of this culture in the space development context become increasingly apparent.
The personalization of dwellings is another factor for the binary lifestyle that will also impact the design of orbital dwellings. On Earth, the ‘mothballing’ of a home is not a particular complication and on Aquarian colonies will be facilitated by its technologies of automated community warehouse storage and, with some colony designs, its ubiquitous use of modular retrofit systems like Utilihab to make the entire interior design of a home as portable as furniture. On orbit, though, habitat space comes at too high a premium to be ‘mothballed’ for protracted periods. Migrating inhabitants will have to trade-off space to their replacements. Early on, an individual space settlement may, over different spans of time, be ‘home’ to several times its base population capacity –this whole population trading-off their resident shifts. Eventually this may be reduced to twice or less but space settlements are likely to long have a larger time-distributed population than their functional population. How then does one accommodate the human compulsion to establish territory by personalization of the design and decor of a living space? If people are to feel truly at home in space, this issue must be addressed in the design of dwellings and demountability may be a key. Dwellings as a whole may be designed for easy disassembly and compact storage along with their contents, allowing residents to deploy very different personal dwellings during their on-orbit shifts. This would not be as efficient as the reuse of generic dwellings but we must be sensitive to the needs of people who will be living this binary lifestyle life-long with shifts ultimately spanning years and eventually evolving into perpetual residence. A zero-g college dorm room is not going to cut it as a model for the ‘good life’ on orbit and affords no possible incremental evolution in the technique of dwelling design.
The first generation of Asgard inhabitants would tend to be technicians and engineers who have carried-over from Asgard’s initial phase of teleoperated facility development to perform quite similar work in the space environment –since even though they are traveling to space, most exterior work will still be teleoperated, most lengthy or intriciate work will be done on components brought inside a habitat, and the systems these people will work with will remain quite similar. Though common and necessary for today’s space agency facilities due to ad-hoc system design, space walks would tend to be a rarity throughout the Asgard phase as they simply aren’t as practical or cost-effective for routine maintenance and construction work as designing systems in the first place to accommodate convenient break-down into modular units and ready handling by simple telerobots that can function outside continuously.
For these earliest of spacefarers, residence in space would be totally associated with work and would be treated similar to the protracted shift work of off-shore oil platforms. Personal space would be limited to the early types of dwellings such as communal crew quarters and eventually small Capsule Hotel style compartments and would tend to be generic ‘dormatory’ facilities uniform in design and size, since inhabitants might only work for shifts of up to a month. There would be few working couples (couples working together as a team) among the demographic of these workers and not a great deal of entrepreneurship since that would initially tend to be relegated to clients leasing space for teleoperated systems. These workers would generally be employees of the MUOF management company or scientists and engineers working for other companies in the GreenStar Industrial Cooperative or the companies the MUOF leases space to. Most of these people would not consider space their residence. They would call Aquarius colonies home and regard space facilities strictly as work venues.
Life aboard these early habitats would be akin to that aboard today’s primitive government-built space stations and feature an extremely utilitarian environment. The initial Valhalla/MOF facility would employ the same Modular Unmanned Orbital Factory – MUOF systems and structures it evolved from with a pressurized habitat limited to a small cluster of TransHab style modules and totally dependent upon terrestrial support. Design of the manned portion of the Valhalla – MUOF stations would be centered on the workshop facilities and the means by which –through airlocks– components and subsystems are transferred between workshop interiors and exterior environments using telerobots.
However, with space tourism would come a very different sort of Valhalla habitat. While still based on the same technology and still totally work-oriented for the operational staff, the tourism version of a Valhalla station –most likely relegated to LEO at first– would be designed to suit a steady stream of visitors with some higher degree of comfort and multiple venues for recreation and entertainment. While station staff would generally share common facilities, the space hotel/resort would likely feature whole module personal suites, much as described earlier, and structures dedicated to recreational activity and the support of space walks that, though largely abandoned for true work activities, would be demanded as part of a recreational space experience. One can anticipate such features as large observational lounges with either numerous windows or a large plexiglass sphere –a very expensive but very key feature for such a facility. Or a large ‘sports’ module designed to provide a large span padded or trampoline walled space for people to vault around freely in. Another feature might be a kind of swimming pool where a mass of water kept moving in a loop by water jets affords a partial artificial gravity by centrifugal force. A hydroponic garden is also likely, illuminated by a heliostat system in the far end of the module. Here we would begin to get a glimpse of some of the aspects of life in later habitats, even if initially it is something only tourists would experience.
As Valhalla facilities become more robust and begin to assume some of the structural systems and design features of EvoHab settlements, a new generation of in-space industries and businesses would emerge intended to exploit a productivity margin and new production options afforded by a local worker population and to serve an on-orbit domestic market created by the collective community of companies and their growing demand for space. Generally, it is more efficient to transport refined materials than finished products and thus for a space facility to support its structural expansion and maintenance with components it manufactures on-orbit. Bulk materials have a low inherent value and need no human assistance to transport to space and thus cheaper transport systems with lower reliability are still practical and potentially far more cost-effective. This is the basic principle behind the design of the UltraLight launch system suggested as part of the Bifrost program –a system intended to be so cheap that even a 1/3 rate of failure for supply of bulk materials would still produce an acceptable yield. This ability to manufacture from refined raw materials also establishes a precedent and core capabilities for exploiting space-sourced materials that are refined on orbit.
With this new generation of orbital industry would come a new phase of entrepreneurship focused on increasing the diversity of business and industry on-orbit. Though still possibly severely hampered by the limitations on in-space duration, a new generation of entrepreneurs would look to create a lasting physical legacy on orbit –the foundation of an eventual permanent home in space. By this time Space Wasting may be controllable to the point where adults can reside a full half of their lifetime in space and thus treat dwellings on-orbit as truly permanent homes in parallel to their terrestrial homes where they can fully explore the possibilities of a new space lifestyle and pass-on on-orbit property –and cultural ambitions for its use– to their children. Thus we would anticipate an evolution of the architecture of the orbital dwelling toward a new level of design sophistication and aesthetic expression and the evolution of the overall orbital habitat into a true community environment –a true EvoHab based Asgard colony with a full Urban Tree. Previously, the Valhalla facility needed only to accommodate the needs of industrial and research activity and a very temporary workforce. Now the full scale Asgard space settlement must serve as a place for the full spectrum of human activity; work, recreation, socialization, sexual interaction, creative expression. It must host a broadening demographic that includes families with children (though possibly still limited in minimum age), people of widely varying age, diverse cultural and ethnic origins, and perhaps some of the first generation of a new community of augmented humans and artificially intelligent beings with some very different life support needs.
The Orbital Good Life:
There is a crucial aspect to the settlement of space that is often overlooked by the community of space advocates, being so fascinated with the clever technology of space hardware and less so with the character of life there. To settle space means to cultivate in the collective psyche of a society a cultural model for the ‘good life’ within the context of this new environment. Ultimately, the only reason anyone settles anyplace is that they feel the location will provide them with a better life in one way or another. Early arrivals in the New World had no intension of staying in what they regarded as a godforsaken wilderness. They went there to earn money to spend on the good life back home in Europe. The New World didn’t become a prospect for permanent living until it became possible to transpose those European models of the good life onto its new environment. In fact, the US didn’t really have a distinctly American concept of the good life until well into the 20th century. What constitutes a high standard of living and quality of life in orbit? What do ‘luxury’ and ‘comfort’ mean in a microgravity environment? What is the good life in space? These are crucial but often overlooked questions.
Ultimately, there is nothing in space worth going to space for beyond space itself and the prospective freedom to create superior, novel, or interesting habitats and lifestyles that are not possible, for whatever reason, on Earth. While the early period of Asgard is focused on the objective of turning some profit on space to bootstrap its initial settlement and infrastructure development, long-term there is no point to people going to space if they cannot imagine and realize a high quality of life there. Without a model for living well in that environment, space forever remains an inhospitable wilderness. The First Space Race carried with it and implied promise of making space a place to live yet, to date, all the likes of the national space agencies have ever actually demonstrated is one or another variation on the theme of submarine duty! Even science fiction has failed to explore this in any depth –though that can be largely blamed on its general abandonment of visions for any plausible future.
To their credit, the proponents of the giant rotating space colonies devised in the 1970s did think a lot about quality of life in space but this seemed to be expressed in the notion of a total recreation/simulation of the terrestrial environment so as to host some kind of sparsely populated conventional suburbia in orbit –much as the settlers of the New World regarded it as inhospitable until they could transplant whole the sometimes anachronistic Old World models of the good life. While we will in fact be discussing habitats akin to this later, the idea of some outright duplication of the Earth environment is very extravagant for our first permanent settlements in space –rather like the 19th century Eastern settlers of the southwest territories who dismissed the functional elegance of the indigenous adobe architecture well adapted to the region in favor of anachronistic Victorian mansions hopelessly unsuited to the desert environment and, in practice, hellish to live in! Ironically, the good life in this same region is now defined in terms of luxury forms of that once dismissed adobe architecture.
Marshal Savage considered these rotating habitat concepts improbable and unnecessarily elaborate owing to their extreme scale and complexity, favoring instead to devise a habitat that adapted human habitation to the character of the space environment rather than trying to defy it, expressing a sense of beauty that was based on that character and not some crude simulation of terrestrial life. Savage expressed this idea in the concept of the transparent water-filled hull of the Asgard habitat. He envisioned a habitat that, by virtue of its total view of surrounding space, immersed the inhabitant in the space environment even while sheltering him from its immediately deadly characteristics. Though there were some problems with his particular choice of technology, the basic concept is valid. There is no particular logic to the notion of leaving the Earth in order to reproduce it on orbit –at least not for the benefit of the highly adaptable human being unless it proves impossible to live continuously in space without a full terrestrial gravity. That makes about as much sense as moving to Tahiti in order to build medieval castles. While we must keep in mind the eventual contingency of the rotating habitat –which is why we will be discussing the concept in various forms further– we can anticipate that the community of Asgard settlers will be most concerned with expressing new aesthetics for their habitats and lifestyles that are consistent with the unique characteristics of the microgravity environment and are compelling attractive places to live by virtue of that very environmental difference. With the basic EvoHab structural concept we seek to realize Savage’s same idea of immersion into the space environment as the basis of an architectural aesthetic, albeit with a different, more evolutionary, structural technology that, unlike both those rotating habitat concepts of the past and Savage’s more recent habitat design, does not require a titanic scaled structure to be built whole before people can live in it.
So what then would be nature of this orbital good life? What would the prospective settler of the Asgard habitat be looking forward to in space?
The dominant lifestyle attraction to space would be creative opportunity. The ability to create a place, an architecture, an aesthetic, and a way of life that are truly new and unique to this very different environment. Opportunity is the primary motivation of human migration, though how that is defined evolves with time and culture. In the past this was dominated by material needs. In the future it may be dominated by something different.
The techniques of industry, the technologies supporting daily life, the patterns of daily life, the design of personal dwellings, the way just about everything is made and done is different in the space environment. This presents a very compelling attraction to anyone who is looking for a venue of novelty and, in the Post-Industrial culture of the 21st century and especially in the communities created by TMP, novelty will be the driving force of life while invention, creative expression, and participation will be the basis of ‘wealth’ as measured by social credit. We will be discussing such aspects of Post-Industrial culture in more detail later. What’s important here is that what we consider ‘work’ in daily life will, for the later 21st century person, likely be divided between a slowly but steadily decreasing amount of increasingly local and domestic activity/production done to directly support one’s personal survival, comfort, and/or community obligations and a steadily increasing –by proportion– amount of activity focused on ‘careers’ that define the person and earn profit in the form of social credit increasingly metered digitally, rather like the reputation tracking systems of an on-line auction house. We will all become venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in a market of social credit. You are what you do and your wealth is measured by what you’ve done. Such social credit will become a kind of fungible currency in a way –earnable, spendable, lendable, investable– and people’s lives will tend to revolve around the creation of, and participation in, ventures/projects that seek to build this credit by realizing some kind of innovation, discovery, public entertainment, or other social benefit and which, as a reward for participation, provide individuals an opportunity to do and experience things they might not be able to otherwise. Whole communities will form around this premise. Indeed, this is the very point of communities in TMP.
Thus the essential social role of the orbital habitat –or any settlement anywhere in the future– will be as a medium of and venue for this sort of creative activity. The EvoHab must, of course, support the staples of survival in the space environment but must also offer an opportunity to freely explore a diversity of activities and designed spaces as people seek to experiment with and cultivate their various models of the good life and the diversity of activities those ideas revolve around. Rather like some gigantic Christmas tree, the Urban Tree must play host to an endless diversity of concepts, fantasies, hopes, and plans all embodied like totemic fruits by appealing and engaging structures suspended on its trunks and branches. Evolution will weed some of these notions out in practice as it does in every form of city. The key –and one too often overlooked in contemporary urban planning– is accommodating this evolution since all living cities are emergent phenomenon and become pathological and eventually dystopian if their free evolution is impeded.
Though we cannot anticipate all the things people will want to go to space to do, we can imagine some activities that are likely to dominate in the context of TMP’s ultimate goals; tourism, scientific research, asteroid exploitation and the industrial production it feeds, telecommunications, the on-orbit manufacture of spacecraft and systems for space exploration and further settlement, mass orbital power production, and –of course– mass media production exploiting the unique architecture and physical character of this habitat. A fair parallel to the spectrum of activities likely to dominate the lives of the inhabitants of Aquarius, though here in the context of an entirely new environment.
Comfort and Luxury:
It would be difficult to suggest that the space environment will offer the prospect of any greater degree of comfort than anyplace on Earth. In our technological civilization, comfort is no longer dependent upon environment but rather on built habitat design and though people do still often migrate for more comfortable climate, this is not for the sake of making indoor living easier. However, the way one realizes physical comfort in the space environment would be very different owing to its different physical nature, and in that lays great opportunity for design novelty.
Materials dominate the pursuit of comfort through design and on Earth have long demanded the designer seek a balance in often contradictory characteristics and requirements for dwellings through combinations of materials. In space, the relationship between the discrete dwelling and the macrostructure, the use of macro-enclosure, and the ergonomic characteristics result in a very different set of design priorities. The terrestrial dwelling is typically a self-contained and independent structure in environmental terms but the personal dwelling in an EvoHab is retrofit element upon a unified macrostructure which provides environmental shelter independent of the dwelling. Thus it has no need to maintain a discrete environment except in a social and aesthetic sense. In other words, it doesn’t need to provide environmental shelter. It’s role is to provide privacy through visual and audial shelter and to create comfort through ergonomics and sensual characteristics.
As we’ve already noted, a likely structural composition for dwellings in the large EvoHab is the combination of textiles, space frames, and structural foams. We can also anticipate the use of flexible impermeable skinned foams and various forms and densities of polyethylene in wet areas or ‘high traffic’ areas where frequent hand and foot contact may lead to dirt build-up. Many other materials will, of course, also have their uses –even wood or leather– but in this volumetric environment where people are using virtually every surface around them to aid mobility large surface areas of very hard materials are less desirable. Textiles and foams have an inherent comforting quality by their warmth and softness. This is the material of furniture and bedding and in space the whole dwelling is likely to have the character of a gigantic piece of upholstered furniture rigidized by modular framing that is largely kept hidden as infrastructure or kept outside the interior space except where being used –like the core trusses of the TransHab– in the role of central location for equipment. We can thus envision many dwellings as cocoon-like in nature –like the products of soft-sculpture– which lends to the tree-like analogy of the macrostructure. The design possibilities here are endless and largely completely unexplored by any designers today; organic shaped cocoons of fabric-covered structural foam, geodesic clusters with walls of padded geometric tiles, clusters of Asian-inspired boxes with light wood space frames and tatami matting on all major surfaces, and so on. To date most of the interiors of current space stations and spacecraft assume duel environment use. They are designed to be traversable in both a terrestrial environment and in microgravity –designed with some kind of default ‘floor’ and ‘ceiling’– so that, when on the ground, crew and technicians can move around in them with ease. No need for this with the habitats of Asgard unless they are designed to suit a macrostructure supporting artificial gravity. There will be no constraints on the exploration of a volumetric distribution of spaces beyond the ergonomic constrains on spans for easy movement.
Domestic technology is also an important part of establishing comfort and even in the early 21st century we can see how critically important personal communications and computer technology have become to the quality of life of the person on Earth. By the time of Asgard the typical terrestrial inhabitant is likely to live in a very rich media and information environment, the typical home equipped with any number of large area displays serving roles for personal communications, work, and entertainment. Such displays are likely to also be a feature of many homes and buildings on orbit, though more likely to employ flexible materials where possible when they approach ‘whole wall’ areas as are likely to become common for terrestrial displays. But it’s also likely that, owing to the nature of the microgravity environment, users will tend to favor wearable communications and user-interface devices and rely more on voice, gestural, eye-tracking, and sub-lingual user interface technologies that provide a less mechanical means of interaction.
It is also likely that, by the time of full-scale EvoHab development, some of the first forms of robust neural interfacing for virtual environment applications will become practical, allowing for the use of ‘virtual HUD’ user interfacing where images are broadcast right to the visual cortex of a user by wearable devices and tracking of imagined but not actual motion used as an alternative to devices like a mouse. (in other words, these systems would track your thinking about a physical gesture, such as pointing a finger, even if you aren’t actually moving it, using that to control a virtual equivalent of a mouse and eventually whole-body avatars) This could become an important means of communication for the first AI residents of space, since they may exist like ghosts in the computer systems of the habitat except where they can use specific communications devices to interact with their fellow organic inhabitants.
Another likely domestic –and work– technology in Asgard will be various ‘remotes’ in the form of simple free-roving robots which propel themselves in a microgravity by pressurized gas thrust in the manner of underwater robots. NASA has already explored the possibilities of these kinds of robots in the simple role of teleoperated remote camera and personal communications device –a free-roaming PDA, if you will. On the colonies of Asgard such robots are likely to evolve to assume a wide variety of roles using modular chassis and interchangeable parts. Expanding on NASA’s ideas, they may serve as self-mobile cameras and displays and auto-following video communications units. They may serve as simple maintenance robots autonomously performing such tasks as surface cleaning and the collection of loose objects. They may tend to orbital gardens and farms. They may perform acoustical detection of device failures and hull punctures and perform quick repairs using sealing patches or injectable polymers. They may serve as rescue devices for people who become stuck in free space in the large span areas of the colony and similarly serve double-duty as a personal transportation device in those areas. They may function as packet carriers in the manner of Aquarius’ Personal Packet Transit System in the form of a self-mobile robot cargo box –a very likely role in MUOF facilities. Similarly, they may be used as carrier pallets –the microgravity equivalent of a wheelbarrow, hand truck, fork-lift, or even personal tool box. And they may even serve as personal remotes for AIs, giving them a sensory and communication node in the physical habitat and a display to project an expressive avatar. (perhaps even using holographic display technology that makes the surface of the remote unit appear as transparent as a soap bubble, one might imagine this rather like Madame Leota; the disembodied gypsy fortune teller in Disney’s Haunted Mansion…)
The nature of many mundane activities changes in the microgravity environment. To date, the transitory inhabitants of orbit have never had to cook food. Everything is prefabricated on Earth. So there would be a need for technology that allows for the more sophisticated preparation of foods from containerized packaging. Possibly evolving from robotic ‘food processor’ systems explored by Aquarius settlements, this may take the form of a multi-purpose food processor looking rather like a large automatic bread maker or some cross between a ‘crock pot’ and a front-loading washing machine that can confine foodstuffs to a sealed chamber while introducing ingredients from various cartridges through peripheral ports and perform various heating, cooling, freezing, freeze-drying, and mixing functions. The human sense of taste is very different in space, as many astronauts have observed, and so a very novel cuisine is likely to develop in space in conjunction with such different cooking technology.
Other domestic technologies offer similar possibilities for novelty. Water is a very important element in human comfort with roles beyond just simple bodily cleansing and yet it has long proven problematic in the microgravity environment, though much of this relates to the complications imposed by extremely limited amounts of private space as well. Residents of Asgard are likely to explore many novel concepts for bathing apparatus and –with many growing-up on Aquarius colonies– may also seek to devise novel means of confining relatively large bodies of water to allow for whole-body immersion or swimming. Obviously, the easiest way to confine a body of water is by total containment, though this presents the complication of the swimmer needing some form of air breathing apparatus and an air lock entry. We’ve already mentioned one possible concept for an orbital pool for space hotels based on using water jets to maintain a centrifugal force in a mass of water in an otherwise stationary container. Should this prove practical, similar pools may be employed on a much larger scale on the full Asgard colony. Other concepts may seek to employ control of surface tension or electrostatic attraction to make bodies of water confine themselves to containers open on one side for a person to climb into, though still employing a room able to contain and collect loose water droplets. There already exists at least one novel public aquarium which uses active relative pressure control to allow for the use of cub-shaped portals in the vertical aquarium wall so people can feed fish by hand and touch them. Since water tends to accumulate on its own into spherical masses in microgravity, perhaps a simple approach would be to allow a large sphere of water to accumulate in a spherical chamber with electrostatic repulsion and/or surrounding air jets to sweep droplets toward the center. This remains a largely unexplored area, since large amounts of water have generally been impossible to bring to space in the past.
As noted before, decorative gardening will likely become an important factor in the cultivation of a pleasant living environment in the colony and will feature within individual dwellings as well. Various forms of hydroponics are likely to be employed for this, one very likely technology being semi-permeable tubing and corrugated panel structures as an attachment point for plants. Clad in a polymer sheathing or webbing that holds seedlings to the surface of the semi-permeable material, a pressurized nutrient fluid supply is used to feed the plants roots which spread along its surface area. These can be arrayed in large space frame structures combined with latticework for further plant support or integrated into the struts of the colony macrostructure itself. This technology is likely to be employed in dense arrays for intensive farming as well, in dedicated farming structures with more specialized lighting systems and integrated robotic tending systems.
As noted earlier, sexual activity would need serious consideration in the design of dwellings in space and this would also call for the invention of some simple but clever apparatus. On Earth sexual activity is very rarely deliberately addressed in the functional design of anything beyond certain apparel and so-called ‘marital aids’ owing to the fact that the human form seems naturally designed to facilitate convenient spontaneous sexual activity anywhere. Privacy and generally comfortable or novel surroundings are usually the only functional concerns and in the rare instances when spaces are deliberately designed with sex in mind, it’s usually in the context of a decor intended to stimulate erotic feelings –usually in the form of some rather cartoonish backdrop suiting some erotic fantasy or fetish theme. In space, the very physics of the sex act are quite different and, according to surreptitiously leaked reports of some national space agency research on the subject (which may or may not be reliable information), proved difficult or impossible in some common terrestrial ‘positions’ and fatiguing without the aid of interior architecture designed to facilitate it and/or the use of elastic bands, elastic sleeping socks, and similar devices. Most such design and invention is likely to be focused on the smaller spaces used for sleeping but this supposed space agency research on the subject also illustrates another important issue here that is likely to need a more social than engineering solution; privacy. It is amazing that such research would have ever been performed considering how little privacy there has ever been in spacecraft –which begs the question of how reliable such research could ever be without the necessary privacy. Even the large spaces of the EvoHab will present an issue of privacy given the networked nature of distribution of spaces. Given the paradoxical attitudes about sexual activity common to many cultures, people pursue a certain childish secrecy in their sexual behavior and not only seek privacy for the sex act itself but secrecy in their pairing up and seeking out of such private spaces. This is difficult in spaces that present limited numbers of paths to an individual location and where the sex act itself needs somewhat specialized spaces. It is likely that, while cultivating a new technology for sexual activity, the inhabitants of Asgard colonies may also need to develop some more rational cultural attitudes about sex itself.
Personal transportation is another area where very different technologies must be employed in a microgravity environment. The largest of Valhalla class habitats ever created are still not likely to be so large that any form of mechanized transportation will be necessary. But the full Asgard colony effectively has no limit to its potential scale and so, even though moving around in microgravity may be a bit lower in effort, it is more complex and large distances may call for some mechanized assistance. Some form of wearable or carried compressed gas thruster device –likely akin to the hand-held thrusters used by Gemini astronauts but much more compact– is likely, particularly for use in the large span areas of the habitat. Similar devices akin to the tow-motors employed by drivers are also likely, deriving from the same systems of small free-roaming robots and able to follow an individual and come when called to provide movement assistance. It is also likely that the same free-roaming robot technology will result in the design of similarly propelled semi-autonomous robotic vehicles that people would strap into to ride –likely in the form of a chaise lounge equipped with a series of compressed gas thrusters at head, feet, and middle for small vehicles and something akin to the larger pallet carrier robots suited to both passenger and cargo transit. But all these would be quite dangerous to employ at high velocities in all but the absolute largest of spaces –hence their need for robotics in the larger of such vehicles to give them an awareness and collision-avoidance capability independent of their pilots.
Tracked transportation would seem a much safer and thus much more likely prospect for mechanized transport on the large colony. This may take the form of a linear motor track system where a small hand-hold or combined hand and foot hold unit can attach to a rail and then be activated as a tractor motor by squeezing a trigger or flipping a thumb switch. With such systems a track could be as simple as a kind of composite tension cable with linear motor elements integrated into it, thus allowing for easy deployment across large spans and easy reconfiguration. This would likely be employed in large span construction zones as a means to quickly let workers move around. Again, velocities would tend to be low because of the inertia the users own body would hold during breaking, the passenger tending to flip-over in deceleration, which could be disorienting and could cause them to lose their grip if the speed is too high. Some kind of chaise lounge seat up to two-passengers in width with some compartment for modest amounts of cargo positioned –and possibly swiveling– so that acceleration and deceleration forces tend to concentrate at the buttocks is another solution allowing much higher velocities but also requiring the passenger strap-in or employ some lock-down bars or clam-shell enclosure akin to those of a roller coaster. Higher velocities would also require isolation of the track from the rest of the environment to avoid ‘pedestrians’ getting in the path of these vehicles. This might take the form of a kind of tubeway formed of some web or netting that could be easily removed for access in the event of a track shut-down. Like a PRT, this system could feature automated path switching and combine with unmanned vehicles to support PPT use like the PRT systems of Aquarius colonies.
Society and Culture:
As we discussed earlier, the architecture of a habitat has strong influence on the psyche of the society that inhabits it, being reflected in culture and behavior. The sense of anonymity cultivated in the contemporary city has much to do with its character and chronic social problems. Given how this impacts quality of life, how is the Asgard colony likely to fare in this context? We cannot be sure given the newness of such an environment but we can speculate on a few things.
In many ways the organization of the EvoHab Urban Tree parallels the organic organization of the Old World city except that it would tend to be devoid of a hierarchy of large central open spaces for group activity/ritual and public displays because of the difficulty with human beings moving about in such large spaces in microgravity. Instead of a transition from private to public space, there is only private space and rather small public spaces along a branching network of transit conduits and the very large shared open space beyond the limits of the Urban Tree. This would tend to parallel the kind of network social structure that could emerge in the society in general of the mid to late 21st century, given the growing social role of personal telecommunications and the balkanization of social systems and national cultures as a consequence of emerging Post-Industrial technology. There could be potential for anonymity here, since each dwelling on the Urban Tree relates to its ‘exterior’ like an island in a vast open space, but this is potentially mitigated by the networked nature of physical movement through the habitat and the similarly networked character of the society.
Throughout the Industrial Age the Powers That Be sought to cultivate an ideal mobile worker unit in the form of the so-called ‘nuclear family’ –a concept which is in reality very alien to historic anthropology but suited the interests of corporations and the so-called ‘democratic’, ‘socialist’, and ‘communist’ forms of monolithic government which all share a similar compulsion accumulation and centralization of authority and wealth. Though this concept has been a harder sell in the southern hemisphere, western people have become quite conditioned to the idea of the 2 heterosexual adult, 1.2 children model family unit and attach notions of imaginary ‘tradition’ and psuedoreligious connotation to this model –even though it was rare before the 20th century. But by the end of the 20th century sociologists began to observe a new cultural phenomenon emerging as a kind of instinctual backlash to this imposed pathological social structure. People were reinventing the truely traditional extended family in the form of ‘microtribes’ comprised of circles of friends that often formed in childhood, young-adulthood, sometimes in retirement, and sometimes through shared hobby or professional activities and staying in contact throughout life, often engaging in planned social activity on a routine schedule that individuals can feel quite guilty about missing. These microtribes might share housing or seek to move, even when in separate homes, as a unit between communities where enough of them need relocation. Cohousing, eco-village developments, artist communes, and other forms of planned communities have often been based on these groups. This author has also observed their formation in professional circles –since they tend to engage in some degree of professional nepotism– and around specific ‘fandom’ activity, art projects, science projects, amateur film, television, radio, and other entertainment production teams, and more. By the 90s a new phenomenon began to emerge in the form of ‘polytribes’ and ‘virtual microtribes’. People have developed multiple exclusive tribal allegiances associated with different activities or special interest areas, particularly on-line. People often develop very different modes of behavior –different personas– between these different groups and between the physical and virtual environments, which is enabled by both the anonymity afforded by Internet communications (which tends to be liberating for the socially inhibited) and the personal need to express a unique identity even when one is anonymous.
In the 21st century such microtribes are likely to become an increasingly important aspect of contemporary social structure, perhaps even replacing –functionally– the monolithic and increasingly anachronistic government structures of the 20th century. Many futurists have written on this subject and we will be discussing it further in other articles specifically on Post-Industrial culture. They may become nexuses of new community development, new professional and academic ventures, and possibly human activity in general. People’s lives will be structured like an evolving multi-dimensional Venn diagram of social relationships representing a network of material and psychological support as well as a network of social credit and professional opportunity. TMP itself is a product of this phenomenon –as is most contemporary space advocacy and most of the new ventures of the Second Space Age. We can thus anticipate that the development of most everything in the Asgard habitat –everything in the Asgard phase and those phases subsequent to it– may likewise reflect this trend and, in turn, be reflected in the physical architecture of the Asgard habitat and its patterns of daily life –especially since its architecture would be so freely evolvable. The distribution of the Urban Tree may become a physical model of a hierarchy of polytribal relationships with the potential maximum scale of the individual Agard habitat determined not by any technical constraints but rather by the maximum density and coherence of these polytribal social structures –much in the way that early planned Post-Industrial demonstration communities will be scaled according to the spectrum of human skills necessary to maintain a collective quality of life.
We must also consider –even if it is speculative at this point– the possible impact of the AI on the social architecture of Asgard. As we will be discussing later in the section on Artificial Intelligence and its Evolution, TMP2 anticipates an evolution of AI and Virtual People in the form of freely relocatable software entities that operate predominately in a Virtual Habitat that exists –hosted by our increasingly distributed IT infrastructure– in parallel to the Physical Habitat of the organic human being, is increasingly important to the civilization as a nexus of global social interaction and mass media communication, and with these two environments progressively merging through the evolution of various user interface, robotics, and media technologies. Asgard colonies may thus be home to some of the earliest of this new branch of human society, exploring an interest in space development for many of the same reasons as its organic inhabitants. Today we tend to envision –thanks to Hollywood– the AI organism as a cold, emotionless, and very alien entity but, as today’s intelligence researchers are increasingly concluding, there is no reason to expect such life forms to be especially different psychologically from the organic human minds they were ‘reverse engineered’ from except in their freedom from any form mental or physical illness, their eidetic memory, their lack of common animal survival drives, and their acclimation to a virtual habitat with unlimited virtual luxury. And we can anticipate that they are likely to be a more socially integrated community of beings than organic people tend to be owing to the fact that, having much less dependence upon material goods for their survival, not normally engaging in any kind of physical work (except through the teleoperation of robots), and living in an environment where information and communication are far more tangible elements than they are for the organic human, they will tend to define their quality of life in terms of social/cultural integration as an extension of their tendency to define standard of living in terms of digital network integration. These are beings likely to be more clued-in to the social architecture and culture of 21st century civilization than most organic human beings, though they may face many frustrations at first in the limited ability to communicate with the Physical Habitat through near-term technology and potentially many challenges to their rights and social status from Luddite and religious fundamentalist elements in the organic human community.
For these beings life on Asgard would be rather different from life for the organic human being since they would spend most of it in the Virtual Habitat and treat forays into the physical habitats of Asgard much like the organic human treats a foray into the exterior ambient space environment. They will be limited to communicating by telecommunications, media devices, telerobots, and robot ‘remotes’ which, because of their severe sensory and physical limitations, will be less preferable for interaction than VR interfaces that can bring organic humans into their ‘native’ environment with much superior sensory bandwidth. They may employ a parallel virtual model of the physical Asgard habitat –which for organic human communication would function in coordination with Virtual HUD display and sub-lingual communications interfaces as mentioned earlier– but this would represent an extremely small part of the environment they have routine access to, especially since they would be able to travel to and access the Virtual Habitat of Earth’s Internet and the networks of any other settlements at the speed of telecommunications. Space for them is an add-on to their existing environment –like adding a new wing to an already vast palace.
Even with these limitations in communication and with the fact that the early population of AIs –if they do exist by this time– may be quite small, it is likely that the inhabitants of Asgard settlements –as well as most other settlements of TMP– will encounter them frequently in their activities and develop many flavors of relationship with them. Indeed, many of these beings may in fact be the products of IT development in TMP communities. They will likely be part of the very same microtribal/polytribal social architecture of the general culture, even though they may face discrimination in many parts of it, and will very likely feature prominently in the popular culture as celebrities for a time –with both positive and negative aspects to that.
Altogether, Asgard promises to be a very interesting time and habitat to live in, indeed.
- Modular Unmanned Orbital Laboratory - MUOL
- Modular Unmanned Orbital Factory - MUOF
- Manned Orbital Factory - MOF
- Asgard SE Upstation
- Asteroid Settlements
- Inter-Orbital Way-Station
- Solar Power Satellite - SPS
- Beamship Concept
- Inter-Orbital Transport
- Cyclic Transport
- Special Mission Vessels
- Orbital Mining Systems
- The Ballistic Railway Network
- Deep Space Telemetry and Telecom Network - DST&TN
- Asgard Supporting Technologies