If we really want humans to live in space we have to go teranormous when it comes to space cities. Teranormous is bigger than giganormous which dwarfs meganormous. We are talking huge and epic. Stop thinking terrestrially and think what we can do with some real space. Space that could be in zero gravity and without fear of falling or heights. We tend to think within the constraints of needing gravity but what if we didn’t? Let’s go outside the box and get teranormous.
We should probably set some ground rules. We will assume air is not an issue nor is zero gravity living. We will also assume we can build as large as we want and cost is no issue. Another assumption is we have plants that thrive in zero gravity. At this point, I may have weeded out all the engineers, scientists, and other pragmatists but let’s continue anyway.
As humans, we are accustomed to walking around outside. We have the earth below our feet and the sky above. Between earth and sky are trees, giraffes, houses, skyscrapers, etc. Tall objects help define our perspective and provide a feeling of space. In other words, we know when we are outside rather than inside. We can live inside in a small studio apartment but still be able to walk under the expanse of the sky when outside. This is all fine and good as we have access to air inside and outside. In a space city environment, outside the city has no air or a toxic environment. So, in a small space city environment everything may feel inside. This could cause feelings of being trapped and unable to get away as everything is basically inside. This is why teranormous is important. Creating the feeling of outside will not be possible in a habitat that is not large enough.
When I think habitat my mind wanders to colorful plastic interconnecting tubes hamsters sometimes call their homes. I think similarly when I think about how we approach space habitats. They are an up sized version of hamster tubular living. Personally, I like outside and running around a maze of tubes and having small living space will drive me lemming. Think of the international space station. It is modular just like the hamster tubes. Also, just like a hamster in a plastic ball, a space station person can go on a space walk in a fully enclosed space suit. A space walk is definitively awesome but still not a walk in the park. Let’s make a decision now to sparingly use tubular living in our future space cities. Life is enough of a rat race without introducing hamster living that will drive us all lemming.
Space cities are their own islands. They may need to create basics just to function. They would need to produce power at the very least. However, power is not really a community builder or central theme for a city. Farming on the other hand does build community as food is central to living. Perhaps our teranormous city should have vast agrarian centers. The plants certainly will help produce oxygen and scrub carbon dioxide. Let’s go one step further and say plants are central to our city and will be incorporated throughout. Plants not only for food and medicine but also aesthetically and perhaps structurally. The plants would need to be firmly rooted and since there is no rainfall would also need nutrient and water delivery to the roots. Let’s also add water to our aesthetics.
Water in zero gravity is a challenge. Unconstrained it is a floating water sphere or better yet a water balloon looking for impact. Water is beautiful and although we cannot have ponds, fountains, or waterfalls we can create aquariums. Aquariums are great because gravity is no issue. Blending plants and aquariums we get aquaculture. Imagine floating giant aquariums rich with life with plants growing on the outside in elaborate lattices. How we live and what we eat can be an integral part of the city. What if the city was encased in a large sphere but the walls of the sphere was a giant aquarium? Yup, that’s a whole bunch of water and it may be necessary to store for power, oxygen, fuel, farming, etc. The shielding and thermodynamic properties of water may be central to the safety of our city.
Where the sidewalk ends is zero gravity. Up and down will be relative as we move in 3D space rather than 2D ground walking. We will need a means of propulsion and for that matter braking. Perhaps air jet propulsion or maybe wings? At any rate, getting around is a 3D experience and resting means hovering. No more park benches and of course no sidewalks. Chairs and tables are things of the past and all is needed is a way to anchor so you don’t accidentally float off. Restaurants will be interesting.
A reservation at Chez Zero Grav is never boring. Seating is more like anchor zones. All food is gelatin. Just kidding but maybe not. The days of a glass of lemonade, plate full of fried chicken, coleslaw, potatoes, and gravy are gone. Food and drinks need to be contained so they don’t float off. Perhaps places to eat will have pods to eat in so other diners don’t inadvertently start food fights. Going out on a date to slurp from pouches seems unromantic. Cuisine will need to be rethought.
Litter and personal hygiene in a teranormous city will be a challenge. Imagine that guy that throws the gum wrapper on the ‘ground’ in zero gravity. That gum wrapper will continue to float around in 3D space. Spitting is definitely out as well as other fluid producing uncivil activities. A sneeze could be downright catastrophic not only producing fluids but also propelling the sneezer. Accidental littering of both fluid and solid is going to be a problem. The air handlers will need to handle not just air particulate like dust but also larger floating debris. They also can’t be like an occasional sewer drain but would need to be incorporated universally throughout the city.
Home is where you secure your stuff. Imagine a tidy house with everything in its place. Now imagine an untidy home with all your stuff floating around and possibly out the door into the neighbor’s window. In zero gravity having stuff is not easy. Everything not only needs a place but needs to be put away or off it floats. Because of this people may just have less stuff. Other than that, the home is still a place to eat, sleep, and entertain. More importantly, it is a place of privacy. Living in a teranormous city means you will need places of privacy.
When personal flying is too far you can ride. Transportation could have mass flying or more likely be more of a secured train system. Individual cars of varying sizes will be confined to some kind of track. The last thing we need is aerial collisions with pedestrians. Very messy and air handler intensive.
Teranormous allows for comfortable building and pleasing visuals. The city may be built spheroid and does not need to adhere to building from the ground up. Building can happen in many dimensions as the structure is not fighting gravity. However, we must leave space and define outside. Not only should ample space be between large structures like buildings but also long visual spaces as well. There may be opportunities to trick the eye and create some interesting open space feeling.
Large meeting areas like stadiums will be important to house entertainment and as a large meeting space. Just think of all the new zero gravity sports. Actually, that seems like a great blog post! More on zero gravity fun later.
To wrap up, teranormous space cities are epicly huge. They are full of space that feels like outside with pleasing visuals. They are zero gravity and all the challenges that brings. They are their own self sufficient island where water and food are central. Tubular hamster living is a thing of the past. Most importantly, teranormous space cities are endearingly called home by their populations.