Mobile Suit Gundam: High Frontier
Life In The Universal Century
The O’Neill Cylinder or “open type” space colony was established as the standard and most common design throughout most of the colonies, but a newer and more economically efficient design, attributed to Y.T. Minovsky, was used in Side 3 (L2). Modeled on the Gray “Vivarium” design, this “closed type” space colony is a “solid” cylinder with the same dimensions as the open type colony, minus the “sky” panels. Sunlight is refracted through translucent optical “pipes” into a central radiant core to illuminate the inner hull.
The entire interior cylinder wall is available for habitation, so these “tin can” colonies have twice the habitable area of their open type counterparts: 650 square kilometers (250 square miles) or 65,000 hectares (160,620 acres).
Here, each colony contains only two urban civic centers, two suburban residential zones and one rural recreational area. The two cities and their associated suburbs cover an area of 248.4 square kilometers (96 square miles) each. The rural area covers an area of 124.2 square kilometers (48 square miles) each, which again must be divided evenly between the two urban centers. Each of the urban centers houses eighteen million people, supporting a total population of thirty-six million at an urban-to-rural ratio of four to one.
The closed type colony is twice as efficient as the open type—but only a third as pleasant. Due to the visual and psychological effects of its undifferentiated design, the closed type colony seems much more confined and artificial, less spacious and congenial, than its open type counterpart. (This visual aspect accounts in part for the more “military” or “industrialized” look of the closed type colony of Zeon, in contrast with the more “civilian” or “suburban” look of its open type counterparts. “A cheap cinematic trick,” perhaps, but an effective one.)
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Last Update: 01 January 2020
Copyright © 1999–present by Dafydd Neal Dyar
2 thoughts on “How the Other Half Lives”
Honestly, the ‘closed type’ is probably safer all around. Those huge windows on the “Sunflower” colonies are structurally dangerous, they offer no real protection from radiation, the reliance on HUGE mirrors that could get out of balance and tear the station apart…danger! There’s also a question of how much a person on the inside could actually SEE out the big windows. The glare from the mirrors would be pretty bright, so they might not see anything but an illuminated patch. Assuming this wasn’t the case, though, they’d probably see another cylinder appearing to rotate twice as fast as it is, with huge mirrors swinging past too close for comfort. Honestly, the windows might simply be a terrifying experience for new folk.
A closed-type station is obviously simpler and structurally more sound. (The “Babylon 5” series took place predominantly on their version of the “Closed-Type” station)
Beside illumination, the mirrors act as solar energy collectors. They need not be attached to the habitat proper except with power conduits of some sort. That’s also true of sunlight: light gathered by a mirror array could be concentrated into optical fibers and “piped” into and throughout the habitats.
Professor O’Neill was something of a snake-oil salesman. He wasn’t really all that interested in space colonization except as an intellectual engineering exercise and as a way to play on the idea of giving America a “New Frontier” on which to set its sights, the “High Frontier” of his own invention. What he really wanted was to get people excited about the possibilities of inexpensive solar power in general and his notion of a geosynchronous Solar Power Satellite System that would capture sunlight, convert it to electricity and beam it down to rectenna farms on Earth. Every one of his space colonization proposals, from Moon bases to orbital habitats, were dependent on a working SPSS was a prerequisite for construction.
If you look at the rosy picture of space habitation that he painted, it’s essentially “Suburbia in Space”–clean spacious homes with manicured lawns and no industrialization or pollution as far as they can see. All the comforts of small-town America far from the madding crowd. “Suborbia” if you will. It was the carrot at the end of the stick, enticing but always out of reach, that might get people to the useful work of building a new and clean power system that, during the Energy Crisis that was in full swing when he began writing, might never be achieved otherwise.