Board Member, Alliance for Space Development and NSS
One day in 1978 Al Globus’ housemate brought home a stack of CoEvolution Quarterly issues, including an issue discussing Princeton professor Gerard O’Neill’s vision of free space settlements. Al was electrified. As soon as he graduated he got a job as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center eventually working on Hubble, ISS, X37, shuttle, earth observation, teleoperation, molecular nanotechnology, asteroid mining, and bone development in micro-g wining many awards and publishing many papers along the way. More important, he made two primary contributions to space settlement. The first was founding and managing the NASA Ames Space Settlement Contest for 6-12th grade students. Every year since 1994 first tens, then hundreds, and now thousands of students send their space settlement projects to Ames, with standings and the best entry posted on NASA’s web site. Hundreds of these student travel to ISDC to present their work, which is amazing. A large fraction, well over half, of entries are 50-100 pages or more representing months, and sometimes years, of hard work. The second involves revisiting the assumptions of the studies that electrified Al in the first place. Two of these assumptions, the need for radiation shielding and limited human tolerance of rotation, are not quite iron clad as believed. Computational studies strongly suggest that LEO orbits directly over the equator are well protected from space radiation by Earth’s magnetic field. Indeed, below 500 km space settlements may not require any dedicated radiation shielding at all. This radically reduces the mass of settlement designs making Earth launch of settlement components to LEO more than competitive with lunar launch to L5 of the vastly greater mass needed for radiation shielding in high orbit. To produce 1g of artificial gravity, early space settlement studies assumed that people could tolerate rotation rates no greater than 1-2 rpm. However, a careful survey of the literature strongly suggest that 4-6 rpm is acceptable, which radically reduces the size of the smallest practical settlements. Combined with the mass reduction of eliminating shielding this reduces the mass of settlement designs by two to three orders of magnitude. This means that the first settlements can evolve from vigorous LEO space station and hotel development bringing the space settlements within our grasp.