National Geographic : 1976 Jul
The Next Frontier? By ISAAC ASIMOV Paintings by PIERRE MION I DID NOT REALLY UNDERSTAND what L-5 was like, on this July day in A.D. 2026, until I no longer saw it from my vantage point in space. On the shuttle flight I had observed by telescope the torus that we all recognize, much like a bicycle wheel, gleaming in the direct light of the sun and in the light re flected from the large mirror floating free above. The six spokes and the central hub were visible too, of course. The shuttle craft was built for durability, not comfort, and I welcomed the end of our journey-a three-day flight. As we moved in toward the docking module, L-5 stopped being a torus in space and became a habitat, a world with 10,000 people. The hub is a sphere 130 meters in diameter, which seemed huge when we were immediately above it. The six spokes led out to the torus proper, the nearer edge of which was 765 meters away. What it (Continued on page 81) Shape of things to come? Even as Apollo and orbiting Skylab recede into history, American scientists consider a more awesome enterprise-a permanent colony in space. Here a cargo tug maneuvers to dock at L-5, where 10,000 people live under artificial gravity in an encircling tube called a torus. Their mission: to build more colonies as well as satellites for beaming solar energy to icy-blue earth.