The Technium

A Different Beauty For Space

This shot, taken May 23, 2011, is the first picture of any shuttle docked to the International Space Station (ISS) from the perspective of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. It was taken on the last voyage of a shuttle, the Endeavor.


We’ll have to rid ourselves of terrestrial notions for beauty once we export the technium to space. Space architecture won’t resemble earthbound organisms (sharks, birds, jellyfish, snails, mushrooms) because a different aspect of physics dominate a weightless vacuum. Streamlining makes no sense in space, nor does compact packing. Instead, ease of assembly, modularity, and maximum surface area count — at least so far.

There will be no spherical death stars, sleek US Enterprise, or Kubrick ring stations. Rather there will be steampunky assemblies sporting exterior plumbing, ad hoc lab equipment, and gigantic contraptions stolen from the hardware bin. These sprawling structures resemble slums more than spas. Exhibit A is the current International Space Station after 13 years of construction. It is due to be completed next year (2012). Despite its nerdy beauty, the ISS is the most expensive object yet created by humans ($160 billion when done).

Yet its quality of living, sense of design, and overcrowding would hardly be tolerated back on earth. Its overcrowded sleeping quarters would be illegal in its host countries.


I can’t think of single science fiction movie that depicts space travel as a long-term stay in aluminum shanty town.

(Thanks, Todd)


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