Out-Of-This-World Space Colonies As Imagined By NASA In The 1970s–And Today

Published October 22, 2015
Updated February 1, 2018

Discover these astounding space colonies designed by NASA in the 1970s and the Mars colony they're plotting now.

NASA’s innocently named “summer studies” were anything but. Over the course of ten weeks in the summer of 1975, the project had one goal: to craft a future that would send humanity beyond its home planet. Scientists, engineers, and academics teamed up to envision three different types of space colonies, some holding as many as a million people. If NASA’s audacious dreams had come true, handfuls of these colonies would be orbiting the Earth right now.

Here’s a look at the variety of space colonies NASA has dreamed up in the past–and the ones they’re planning for our future:

Space Colonies Of The Past: The Stanford Torus

Space Colonies Stanford Torus Agriculture
Space Colonies Torus Construction
Space Colonies Torus Cutaway
Space Colonies Torus Exterior
Out-Of-This-World Space Colonies As Imagined By NASA In The 1970s–And Today
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The Stanford Torus was—comparatively speaking—the most feasible of all the space colonies proposed during the summer studies. It would have held 10,000 people in a one-mile long donut-shaped ring.

The Torus would have paired an overhead mirror with mirrors on the colony’s inner ring to pull sunlight into the inhabited outer ring. And by rotating constantly, the colony would create artificial gravity for those inside it.

According to the concept art, the Torus would also have contained a colony-wide monorail as well as trees, grass, and a water reservoir--nothing says ambitious like a lake in space.

Thanks to budget cuts from Congress, the Stanford Torus never came to be. However, the ideas behind the structure are still relevant as proven by artist Dan Roam’s sleeker, more efficient 2006 take on the basic design, presented above.

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