High Frontier Paperback – 1 Sep 1982
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Rocket man, I think it's going to be a long, long time. When Princeton physicist Gerard K. O'Neill published the first edition of High Frontier back in the mid-70s (just four years after "Rocket Man," to be exact), he just assumed that some of us would be living in orbit by now. Or as the Space Studies Institute's George Friedman puts it in a new essay for this third edition of O'Neill's pioneering work, the L5 society's slogan "L5 in '95!" certainly wasn't referring to 2095.
In High Frontier, O'Neill had mapped out a straightforward, manifestly doable path to putting humans into space permanently and sustainably, using 1970s material and current-day Zubrin-style know-how. But O'Neill died in 1992 seeing humanity no closer to fulfilling his bold vision. Freeman Dyson points out in a new introduction to this edition that in many ways we've actually backslided, that the International Space Station (and the current role of NASA) is "not a step forward on the road to the High Frontier. It's a big step backward, a setback that will take decades to overcome."
But O'Neill's idea of pursuing an inexhaustible energy supply (solar power in space) and endless room to expand remains tantalisingly attractive. The science has only gotten easier, and the moral imperative has only become more pronounced, with the planet's resources ever-steadily squeezed and the recent knowledge that a mass-extinction event on Earth is nearly inevitable. (O'Neill calls the High Frontier the only chance to make human life--perhaps all life in the universe--"unkillable.") The High Frontier is as exciting a read as it ever was, and six new chapters provide context for the advances made in the 25 years since O'Neill's original manifesto. But perhaps the best addition to this printing is the chance to see and hear the soft-spoken physicist himself, in more than an hour of MPEG video included on the CD-ROM. --Paul Hughes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
CD-ROM and Book. Man's on-going conquest of the solar system has been much publicised for its miraculous accomplishments. What is generally less publicised are the potential uses of space beyond simply landing men on another planet. 'Flags and foot-prints' is something we can all be proud of, but the true value of near-Earth space lies with the possibilities for manufacturing and colonisation. Processes not possible on Earth, because of atmosphere and gravity, can be employed in space to produce unique and highly desirable commodities. Habitats built in space, occupying the same orbit as the moon and made primarily from lunar raw materials, can be the necessary answer to our desperate, ever-increasing needs for living and agricultural areas. O'Neill is universally recognised as the father of the 'O'Neill colony' concept. Beginning in the 1970s, he took the original concepts and built from them a complete, realistic and attainable plan - a plan to orbit permanent colonies at the L4 and L5 Lagrange points in near-Earth space, where everyday people would live, work and play in comfort and safety in an environmentally satisfying world.In this 3rd edition of The High Frontier, is O'Neill's original blueprint for the future, accompanied by new chapters presenting the up-to-date technologies and social considerations that impact upon and further justify the plan. This is a vision of a possible hopeful future that could already have come to pass if the human race had committed to it - it is still a source of hope for the future. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
I am confident that something like the High Frontier O'Neill talks about will come to pass around 2045-50. Whether it will be america that builds them is open to question however e.g. massive delays and dithering regarding the ISS station and what to do next. They seem to be locked into a' plan it then cancel it' cycle.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Is human colonization of space achievable even with 1970's-1980's technology? Could it be profitable on a global-economic scale? The author thinks so and tells us why and how; and his credentials are impressive.
The author, Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill, was a tenured professor of physics at Princeton and one of the founders of the Geostar Satellite Corporation (a company that worked on implementing GPS satellites). Many of the conclusions in the book are backed up by actual experiment and by numerous studies done both within and without NASA.
This is one of the handful of books that have helped to shape my outlook on the future of mankind -- a strong statement reserved for an excellent and influential work.
-- Brooke P. Anderson
The emphasis of this book is more on what we need to do, why we need to do it, and what that would be like, than on the details of "how." Other books cover the "how" in more detail. But because of the focus of this one, it is easily read by anyone; no special technical or math skills are required.
After reading only part of this book, I did some web searches and found that the concept of space solar power (which is central to O'Neil's thesis) is still very much alive today. NASA did a new study on it just a couple years ago, and it has been discussed in Congress increasingly often since then. It is a very real concept, very nearly ready for implementation. Read this book to find out why it's so very important.
The additional chapters don't seem to add too much. I was hoping for a good description of where we've got to, and how things have changed. For example, in O'Niell's time, the richness, number and accessibility of Near Earth Asteroids was not known, but there is little in the book on the how these could be used to make O'Niell's original vision easier to fulfill. Likewise, Tether technology could reduce Earth launch costs and bring the vision closer to reality. None of this is covered.
John Lewis has a good section on Space Law, but to see new ideas from him, you have to read "Mining the Sky"
Overall, if you've never read The High Frontier, this book is an excellent buy. If you've already got the previous edition at home, the six chapters don't add too much, and there's better information on the internet.
Packed with technical detail, O'Neill's plan is based on two assumptions - that the price of access to space would drop, and that the price of energy would rise. Neither came true in the early 1980s. The Space Shuttle did not make space flight cheap as promised, and low energy costs did not make space based solar power economical. In the near future though the space frontier may very well develop just as he foresaw.
Given that huge discrepancy in the initial assumptions, everything following is essentially pure fantasy.
However, this is not to say that it's worthless. The designs of the stations are ingenious and practical (given the availability of funds and in-space infrastructure, which isn't looking like it'll happen very soon). Other technologies described in the book, such as the mass driver and solar power satellites, have become part of the list of tools we expect to use during the conquest of the solar system.
The main problem with the book is that Dr. O'Neill started with the idea of an orbital paradise he would like to live in, then worked backwards from there and attempted to figure out a way to make it happen. His economics and politics strike me as being hopelessly unrealistic.
The engineering is the good stuff here. And if capitalism can fix the economic and political problems, which I believe will happen, then we may someday see people living in space habitats that look a lot like what's described here.