Finding a New Home in Space

Jeff Bezos envisions millions of space colonies housing trillions of people, sustained by continuous sunshine and the vast resources available on the moon, asteroids and other parts of the solar system.

Instant public response to Bezos’s presentation included lots of sharp commentary that the CEO of Amazon could easily be describing office parks or captive-labor towns in space. Others objected that Bezos overstated the world’s growing need for energy, while ignoring his own company’s contributions to climate change and unsustainability.

But many people within the space-enthusiast community were thrilled. Al Globus, a former NASA contractor and co-director of the National Space Society, had a one-word reaction: “Fantastic.”

Bezos’s ideas draw directly from the vision of Gerard K. O’Neill, a Princeton University physicist who attracted attention in the 1970s for his detailed concepts for human settlements in space. Bezos was a student at Princeton while O’Neill was there and has cited O’Neill’s signature book, The High Frontier, as a major influence.

Like Bezos, O’Neill worried about the limits of growth on Earth, though he focused on overcrowding rather than limited energy. “As population continues to expand, we’ll have to abandon the development of greater individual freedom and accept a much more regulated life with diminished options,” O’Neill said in a 1979 interview with OMNI magazine.

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