Gerard O’Neill

O’Neill cylinder

O’Neill was inspired by the papers written by his students. He began to work out the details of a program to build self-supporting space habitats in free space.Among the details was how to provide the inhabitants of a space colony with an Earth-like environment. His students had designed giant pressurized structures, spun up to approximate Earth gravity by centrifugal force . With the population of the colony living on the inner surface of a sphere or cylinder, these structures resembled “inside-out planets”. He found that pairing counter-rotating cylinders would eliminate the need to spin them using rockets.This configuration has since been known as the O’Neill cylinder.

Donald Davis

Internal view of the O’Neill cylinder
“One of my earliest Space Colony paintings was based on the giant ‘Model 3’ cylindrical habitats envisioned by Gerard O’Neill. I imagined the clouds forming at an ‘altitude‘ around the rotation axis. At this time the scene is bathed in the ruddy light of all the sunrises and sunsets on Earth at that moment as the colony briefly enters the Earths shadow, out at the L5 Lagrangian point where stable locations are easily maintained. Oil on canvas panel disposition unknown. “