Forthcoming Space Essay

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If our horizons didn’t expand, the man warned, they might end up limited forever.The renderings produced for O’Neill’s 1970s project were painted by Rick Guidice, who trained as an architect and graphic artist, and Don Davis, who had a background illustrating planetary science.Both men had roots in the counterculture, and they filled their space-habitat interiors with Buckminster Fuller’s domes and Reyner Banham’s architectural megastructures.Meanwhile, the appetite for large-scale public expenditures had soured.Now, in 2019, Jeff Bezos wants his private space company to take over the public imagination about life in space.Gerard O’Neill had pitched his huge habitats as the solution for overpopulation, industrial pollution, ecosystem extinction, the energy crisis, and the culture wars.But in the era of Reagan and Thatcher, economic expansion on Earth’s surface—without any thought for consequences—seemed to be back on the menu.While the observation of objects in space, known as astronomy, predates reliable recorded history, it was the development of large and relatively efficient rockets during the early 20th century that allowed physical space exploration to become a reality.Common rationales for exploring space include advancing scientific research, uniting different nations, ensuring the future survival of humanity and developing military and strategic advantages against other countries.Bezos is the head of a retail empire, and he knows how to sell an image, but what he’s offering today is a watered-down version of nostalgia for yesterday’s future.Bezos’s proposal is a version of O’Neill’s project that somehow manages to look and feel less futuristic than its predecessor.

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