SGU Science Picture Of The Week: Stanford Torus
What you’re looking at is a Stanford Torus. It’s one of the many types of designs that have been proposed for future space habitats.
This specific picture is one of the most iconic images of this bit of scientific/engineering speculation. If you have a story about future living in space, chances are this one will be high on the list of images to use. Case in point, I just read a recent NASA news-item discussing their new program to develop future space habitation and propulsion technologies. Of course, they used this image at the top of the article.
I have seen this image countless times during my life and was always in awe of not only space stations but ones so large that they can replicate portions of the earth. It was painted by Rick Guidice in the 1970s…inspired by the concepts discussed at a series of Summer Space Colony Studies that Nasa Ames Research Center held at that time.
The Standford Torus design that came out of those studies had the following characteristics:
- The Torus, at least a mile in diameter, could potentially hold 10,000 to a whopping 140,000 people
- It would rotate once per minute to simulate near earth-normal gravity inside the outer wall of the ring
- Sunlight wouldbe reflected into the interior using a complex system of mirrors
- Spokes radiating from the center would provide transport while the center would be ideal for ship docking and low-gravity fun.
- Construction material could be sent from the moon using a mass driver to build almost all parts of the ring including radiation shielding
- Using a mix of living and farming areas, such a habitat could become completely self-sufficient.
This idea, even in the mid 70’s, was not new. As far back as the 1920’s, Herman Potocnika and Wernher von Braun conceived of rotating donut-shaped space stations. They were also well represented in the science-fiction after that time including 2001: A Space Odyssey and, more recently, Elysium.
If you like this image, take a gander at more modern and detailed representations of what our future in space could still potentially look like.
Image Credit: Rick Guidice/NASA Ames Research Center