Category Archives: G-Lab

The recent facebook kerfuffle

[from the SSI Facebook page]

Apparently a minor ruckus was caused by a forward of a recent SpaceNews story. Comments here and there ran from analytical to … fun internetty 🙂. One gentleman noted the relationship between the cgi cylindrical design and Clarke’s Rama. For someone who does not do space work every day, it was a good note as were his points on limitations of current launch systems for something as huge as was seen in the article’s imagery. And there was this response:


Hi [name withheld]! I attached a fun picture for you. Before there was an official Clarke Award, Sir Arthur gave this to nuclear physicist Gerard K. O’Neill. It was gifted between the two before there was an internet.

O’Neill was famous originally for revolutionizing particle physics with his Storage Ring Synchrotron – the technology that made round particle accelerators actually work – an idea that lots of professional folks said was nuts until O’Neill and Richter made the first one in Menlo Park near Stanford and Richter won that 1976 Nobel with it. And of course when anyone thinks of a particle accelerator now they see the O’Neill-caused design in their heads. I spoke with Freeman Dyson years back and in his 90s he was still pissed that folks weren’t / aren’t able to fully “get” O’Neill. (Really pissed, like he scared me when he banged his hand on the table over it.)

You are absolutely 100% correct that something like an O’Neill Cylinder (O’Neill called it an “Island 3” design) or even a “Bernal Sphere” (the a.k.a. name that O’Neill gave in homage to JD Bernal to his smaller “Island v1” design) is not something nearby in time. It isn’t, you are right.

However, that is not the full point that some people are making for spinners. The point, by my humble understanding, being around the industry for a bit of a while, is that at least some type of spinning test vehicle should by now be at least on someone’s timeline, even if it is just a New Glenn sized test lab. No one, no one, has done a single spin test away from the overwhelming influence of Earth’s 1G on even the smallest of vertebrates. Worms, yes, fruit flies, yes. But they don’t have backbones or bones at all like you and I do. Which is something to think about when you hear so many folks saying that the Moon (1/6thG) or Mars (1/3rdG) is going to be just fine for humans – there is no evidence to support those happy thoughts. None. Only a spinning test environment that is away from the 1G of Earth can do reduced gravity physiological testing. So a dream of a big O’Neill habitat is, I agree, a dream for today, but a push for a spinner, even a small one, is at this point, kind of a good idea IF we all are serious about Humans living for extended periods on lower gravity locations.

edited to add: I apologize for the long note, you can feel free to delete it… but I also wanted to let you know between just you and I that I do not expect or ask you to become one of those nutty O’Neill fanboys 🙂, I personally am on record as hating O’Neill (yes, hating) for his crazy “space stuff” for a long time. Thing is that after many years, decades in fact, one day it happened against my long proud habit, that I noticed that O’Neill’s numbers about his reasons for space systems started to add up. It was embarrassing for me BUT … I had to eat crow and admit it. That’s just my personal experience. The spinner test systems for vertebrate physiology in reduced gravity aren’t related to that, but I did want to share that personal bit with you [name withheld].


Want to see what caused such a stir? Here’s a direct link to the post (you don’t need a facebook account to see it).

Why is the org into “the most far flung ideas” the one org that is pushing for the most important near-term work?

Someone is finally at least talking about starting some kind of Reduced Gravity test hardware!

SpaceX? No.
Blue Origin? Nope.
Boeing+Lockheed=ULA? Nah.
ESA? NASA? No and for the umpteenth budget year, No again.


It’s an odd way to start but it might at least be a start.Here’s the story:
(and direct: ).

Here is why it isn’t science fiction:

And, here it is as clearly as it can ever be said:

SSI 50: Bioneering

“Life originated in the sea and developed in it slowly for hundreds of millions of years, while the land surfaces of the ancient earth remained utterly lifeless. The primitive, soft-bodied sea creatures, many of them hardly more dense than the water itself, were utterly unable to colonize it. The gleaming surface above their heads was a deadly, impassible boundary. They had developed in water, and without water all around them they could not live.”
-Jonathan Norton Leonard
Flight Into Space: Facts, Fancies and Philosophy
Chapter 11: The Hostile Environment

“Space doesn’t give a d**n about ideology, it’s always trying to kill you”
-Jim Logan
SSI 50: The Space Settlement Enterprise
September 10th, 2019


This next SSI 50 Panel recording, “Bioneering,” may have parts that will ruffle some viewers but knowing the real issues and working to create fixes is the price of admission to into O’Neillian Islands and other off-Earth locations.

After a brief overview, session Host Dr. Jim Logan, cofounder of the Space Enterprise Institute and former NASA Flight Surgeon on Gene Kranz’s Mission Control Team, welcomes Dr. John Charles of Space Center Houston for a major dose of radiation and other killers.

Next, Morgan Irons of the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Founder of Deep Space Ecology, LLC gives a conference highlight: a Space-based Agriculture, Soil and Quasi-Closed  Technologies presentation to help us plan for moving into sustainable Habitats instead of sterile metal boxes.

Joe Carroll, President of Tether Applications Inc., brings reduced gravity issues, that all too often go un-mentioned even by professionals, right up to the forefront, and then Dr. Logan takes the podium again for a – sobering – view from his decades of work beyond the front line of Space.

This one is a doozy. “Bioneering,” the second panel of day two of SSI 50: The Space Settlement Enterprise. Recorded September 10th, 2019 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

If during some parts of this video you start feeling a bit ill, I offer the sentence that Jonathan Norton Leonard wrote right after the quote at the top of this post: “But life tries everything over and over until something works.”

And Jim Logan’s upbeat, motivational sentence?  Let’s get to work on those fixes so maybe in a future session he will have one.