The Future of Space Stations
We are just beginning the development of space stations. The ISS will be a vast improvement over Salyut, Skylab and Mir; but we are still a long way from the realization of large space stations or colonies as envisioned by science fiction writers. None of our space stations thus far have had any gravity, for two reasons:
  • We want a place without gravity so that we can study the effects of gravity.
  • We lack the technology to practically rotate a large structure, like a space station, to produce artificial gravity.
In the future, artificial gravity will be a requirement for space colonies with large populations.


Photo courtesy NASA
Credit: Rick Guidice

Artist's conception of the inside of space colony.

Another popular idea deals with where a space station should be placed. As we have seen, the ISS will need periodic reboosting because of its position in low Earth orbit. However, there are two places between the Earth and moon called Lagrange Points L-4 and L-5, and at these points, the Earth's gravity and the moon's gravity are counter-balanced so that an object placed there would not be pulled toward the Earth or moon. The orbit would be stable and require no boosting. A society called the L5 Society was formed more than 20 years ago to push the idea of placing space stations in orbit at these points. As we learn more from our experiences on the ISS, we may build larger and better space stations that would enable us to live and work in space, and the dreams may become reality.

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