To Infinity and Beyond! Space Colony Art from the 1970s

It has been a long time dream of Earth dwellers to shake off our terrestrial bonds and move to far away places, like space for example. While today the world focus tends to be largely land based, in the 1970s we were in the midst of the Apollo space program, watching men walk on the moon; and gearing up for the Space Shuttle program. It was also a time when the sobering realities of our human impact were becoming obvious to the masses. We saw widespread industrial effects from pollution and an ever rising world population – one which was surprisingly only half of today’s staggering 7 billion.


In response to these rapid changes and a skyward focus, NASA commissioned much conceptual work focused on moving people to space, both for habitation and travel. The artwork featured here come from three summer studies by NASA Ames, conducted in California during the 70s. They feature beautifully fantastic landscapes inside massive structures… a vision of a utopian life inside an artificial atmosphere. Here is a place were people live in harmony, far from the wars and civil strife which marked the era, and full of relaxed living in a lush green environment: rivers meander through verdant grasslands, Rogallo wing hang-gliders soar through the air, and fruit seems to hang from every tree. While these ideas may seem outdated to some, others still look to the heavens hoping that one day we will explore the far reaches of space – and journey there as a human community.

Above and below: Toroidal Colonies. Population: 10,000.

Below: Bernal Spheres. Population: 10,000. The Bernal Sphere is a point design with a spherical living area.

Below: Cylindrical Colonies. Population: Over a million.

Photo Credit: Please credit photos to NASA Ames Research Center.

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