National Geographic : 1976 Jul
from a region of one sideways speed to an other that is much faster or much slower. You know about it?" I nodded, a little abashed. "I know about it, but I tend to forget." One talks about gravity on L-5, but it's a centrifugal effect and that's not quite the same thing. The torus makes one revolution per minute. This means that the edge of the hub, which we had just left, sweeps out a circle of about 400 meters in that minute. The outer edge of the torus, making a much larger circle, moves 5,600 meters in that same min ute, creating greater centrifugal force-a workable substitute for gravity. The elevator car moving downward is accelerated side ways-the Coriolis force-and I felt myself being pulled backward against the curved wall by my own inertia. I held on to the verti cal bar and wished we were moving more slowly still. Earthlike Vista Stuns a Newcomer When the elevator came to a halt, I had regained full gravitational effect for the first time since I had left earth. That meant not only the three days spent in actual spaceflight, barring brief acceleration periods, but the two-day period of medical examination and quarantine while in low earth orbit. It was with only a faint nausea, however, that I stepped out, just a little unsteadily, into the sunlight streaming through the long line of windows above. I stopped and stared. It was not just that the gravity was like that of earth. It was everything else as well. I had stepped into a compact American community with glass and aluminum buildings on every side (page 80). My thoughts were easy to read, for Fenton said, "There are differences. No automobiles." "Not many pedestrians, either, I see." The few that passed, all lightly clothed, greeted Fenton, and he lifted his arm, smiling. The greetings seemed to include me. "Most of us know each other," said Fenton. FAR FROM BEING "SCIENCE FICTION," this article visual izes the outcome of a serious proposal worked out last year by a group of 30 engineers and social and physical scientists. It will be described in detail in the NASA pub lication, "Space Colonization: A Design Study," to be published next month. Address inquiries to Prof. Charles H. Holbrow, Colgate University, Hamilton, N.Y. 13346, or Dr. Richard Johnson, Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Cal. 94305. -T HE EDITOR "L-5 is a world, but it's also a town of 10,000. "The torus is divided into six separate sec tors, alternating between residential and agricultural. More than half the population lives in this particular sector, so you might say this is our city. "The next residential area in the direction of rotation has most of our cultural units theater, movie house, sports areas. The third has our schools and our library. "Sunlight is filtered and dispersed by a series of mirrors overhead. Without earthly atmosphere, we have to be particularly care ful of radiation. We can produce an eight hour night every 24 hours by tilting the mir rors. It's part of making L-5 as earthlike as possible. The streets, you may see, curve a bit." "Why is that?" "So that you don't see to the end of any of them. If they were straight, they would end too soon, and you would have a claustro phobic feeling." I was watching the pedestrians. Most were men in early maturity. I said, "Do the women and children stay indoors?" Fenton said, "No, there just aren't many. We are still a pioneer community, you know, and our population is as yet unbalanced. Fewer than half of our more or less perma nent residents are women. Nevertheless, there are families. We have nearly a thousand youngsters on L-5, some colony-born. My own daughter was born here five years ago." Goat-milk Shake and Hare of the Dog "What do the single people do?" I asked. "Some stay single. Some go back to earth to try to find a mate. Some stay on earth, and some bring a spouse to L-5. Of course, there are no jobs on L-5 that can't be done equally well by either sex. Nevertheless, there are still old cultural habits that die hard, and we receive more male applicants than female. But as time goes by, we expect to have a nor mally distributed population. "Come, let me take you to one of the sun decks on top of this building." The whole atmosphere changed when we went inside. Now there was the bustle of people coming and going in the corridors. Fenton led me past what was obviously a schoolroom. There were children on L-5. I even saw an infant occasionally, in a thoroughly earthlike baby carriage.