In the mid-1970s, NASA's Ames Research Center commissioned some groovy space art depicting what life on a space colony might someday look like. The resulting paintings and models, featuring human populations ranging from 10,000 to 1,000,000 living on gigantic space ships, are a fascinating glimpse at what people thought the future would look like at the time. Like most historical depictions of the distant future, it looks a whole lot like the period in which in it was conceived.
So 1970s NASA space colony art, looks, essentially, like a prog-rock album cover, with lots of trippy geometry, impossible landscapes, and imposing planets looming in the background. (The torodial structures, in particular, also look a lot like the colony in Neill Blomkamp's Elysium with an Instagram filter applied.) But these aren't just fantasies: they're the result of several NASA studies about the feasibility of living in space. The beautiful results, regardless of their ultimate practicality, somehow manage to evoke the not-so-distant past and utopian future in equal measure.
Toroidal Colony: Cutaway View, Exposing The Interior
Bernal Sphere: Interior, Including Human-Powered Flight
Cylindrical Colony: Interior View Looking Out Through Large Windows
Toroidal Colony: Interior ViewPhoto: Don Davis / NASA Ames Research Center