Friday, April 20, 2018

"O'Neill Cylinders: Islands in Space": what "Rendezvous with Rama" would look like if filmed

O’Neill Cylinders: Islands in Space “, by Isaac Arthur, in the Outward Bound series, examines the possibility of humans living inside rotating cylinders (or other structures) with artificial gravity, such as described in Arthur C. Clarke’s 1979 novel “Rendezvos with Rama”, which Morgan Freeman has shown interest in producing as a film.

The inspiration for the concept seems to be Gerald T. O’Neill “The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space” (1976), written about the same time as the first Mars Viking landing, when Dan Fry was having multiple Understanding conventions out west of Phoenix in his saucer city at Tonopah (no longer there – now a cotton farm).

An O’Neill cylinder could be strong enough if as long as 20 kilometers and wide as 5 km, and they could be strung together with connectors.  They could be best placed at Lagrange points around the Earth and Moon, especially L4 or L5.  This was a proposal of Keith Henson, also known for controversial legal battles with Scientology (where he wound up sentenced to jail).  

There have been many other proposals in science fiction, such as Babylon 5, and truly large structures like the Bishop’s Ring, or Millendrec Cylinder.

Artificial gravity can make the cylinders livable, and artificial skies and topography can be constructed. Politically, they might become like quasi-sovereign city-states. They might become common when the cost of living there is less than the cost of living in a big city – maybe in a few hundred years or less.
My own screenplay “Do Ask Do Tell: Epiphany” describes one building and rotating upright on Titan (moon of Saturn) but with much stronger internal gravity than Titan’s.  It would look interesting in a movie.

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