If your mental image of futuristic human colonies in space involves tubular ships, rolling hills, and a population seemingly plucked from a cocktail party in Sausalito in 1972, chances are good that you've been influenced by the art of Rick Guidice and Don Davis — illustrators commissioned by NASA to envision human homes among the stars. At Discover.com, Veronique Greenwood writes about these artists and the lasting impact they've had on science and science fiction.

9 Responses to “The men who designed space colonies”

  1. Nylund says:

    I grew up with the people that designed those colonies in the early 70′s.  That 1972 Sausalito cocktail party joke is really effing funny for anyone who remembers those 1970′s Mensa/NASA cocktail parties that most definitely played a role in all of this.

    What’s even funnier (and not captured in the artwork) is that most of those parties were “clothing optional.”  Yes, the brightest minds of Space Colonization did most of their socializing in their birthday suits.  It was 1972 after all.
    Interesting side note…there’s actually a lot of overlap between many of those ” 1972 Sausalito Cocktail Party” NASA types and the Napa wine industry.  Some of those early wine clubs featuring California winemakers who have since become successful also included NASA chemists who’d make wine in the NASA labs during their downtime.  Chemists and winemakers actually have a lot in common and they learned quite a bit from each other.

  2. Jardine says:

    I have a couple of books I got from a library sale years ago with a bunch of those illustrations. They lay out a really ambitious plan for how they could be built. It’s been a while since I read them, but as I recall the plan was to setup a moon base, mine materials from the moon, fling those materials via rail gun to the Lagrange point past the moon (L2). There they’d be caught by a catcher’s mitt and sent to a construction shack. I think that was at L4 or L5. Then the material would be melted down and turned into either a habitat or a solar power generating station. The idea was to build large solar power collectors to provide cheap electricity down on Earth and to build progressively larger habitats to house more people.

    I’m guessing they hit some snags.

    • Stefan Jones says:

       LUNAR MINE IN ’89! L-5 in ’95!

      You couldn’t escape this stuff at SF conventions in the early 80s. It was more than just fannish enthusiasm; there were of bunch of SF authors who were really committed to pushing the idea. There were novels about L-5 colonies, and a whole novel-sized book/magazine (Destinies) full of stories and technical articles and goggle-eyed editorializing. The Emmanual Goldstein of the movement was Proxmire, hated doubter who wanted mankind to go extinct.

      It was really, terribly oversold and overpromised.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        It was really, terribly oversold and overpromised.

        And ultimately derailed by moving the entire US budget to drone research.

  3. redesigned says:

     i love retro-futurism!  as a kid, these made me want to live in space.

  4. Nylund says:

    My dad, who was a big shot in the whole Space Settlements project has a bunch of this artwork and he just offered to give me a bunch of it.  I grew up staring at it on the walls and it definitely shaped my idea of what “the future.”  I’m pretty excited to hang it on my walls.  It’s weird to think that for my children, it won’t become an image of “the future” but some weird vision of a past time that never came to be (at least in that incarnation).

Leave a Reply