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"We follow the scientists around and look over their shoulders. They're watching their feet: provable mistakes are bad for them. We're looking as far ahead as we can, and we don't get penalized for mistakes."
- Larry Niven

Wheelchair Space Station  
  A home in space.  

Waldo F. Jones developed myasthenia gravis as a child; it left him with only a few percent of the strength of an adult.

From childhood, the single great advantage of living in space was immediately apparent to him - there was no gravity!

"...don't call Waldo's house "Wheelchair" - not to his face."

Waldo F. Jones seemed to be floating in thin air at the center of a spherical room. The appearance was caused by the fact that he was indeed floating in air. His house lay in a free orbit, with a period of just over twenty-four hours. No spin had been impressed on his home; the pseudo gravity of centrifugal force was the thing he wanted least. He had left Earth to get away from its gravitational field; he had not been down to the surface once in the seventeen years since his house was built and towed into her orbit; he never intended to do so for any purpose whatsoever.

Here, floating free in space in his own air-conditioned shell, he was almost free of the unbearable lifelong slavery to his impotent muscles. What little strength he had he could spend economically, in movement, rather than in fighting against the tearing, tiring weight of the Earth's thick field...

Waldo's home had been constructed without any consideration being given to up-and-down. Furniture and apparatus were affixed to any wall; there was no 'floor'. Decks and platforms were arranged at any convenient angle and of any size or shape, since they had nothing to do with standing or walking. Properly speaking, they were bulkheads and working surfaces rather than decks. Furthermore, equipment was not necessarily placed close to such surfaces; frequently it was more convenient to locate it with space all around it, held in place by light guys or slender stanchions.

The furniture and equipment was all odd in design and frequently odd in purpose. Most furniture on Earth is extremely rugged, and at least 90 per cent of it has a single purpose - to oppose, in one way or another, the acceleration of gravity. Most of the furniture in an Earth-surface - or subsurface - house is stator machines intended to oppose gravity. All tables, chairs, beds, couches, clothing racks, shelves, drawers, et cetera, have that as their one purpose. All other furniture and equipment have it as a secondary purpose which strongly conditions design and strength.

The lack of need for the rugged strength necessary to all terrestrial equipment resulted in a fairylike grace in much of the equipment in Waldo's house. Stored supplies, massive in themselves, could be retained in convenient order by compartmentation of eggshell-thin transparent plastic. Ponderous machinery, which on Earth would necessarily be heavily cased and supported, was here either open to the air or covered by gossamerlike envelopes and held stationary by light elastic lines.

Everywhere were pairs of waldoes, large, small, and life-size, with vision pickups to match. It was evident that Waldo could make use of the compartments through which they were passing without stirring out of his easy chair -~ if he used an easy chair. The ubiquitous waldoes, the insubstantial quality of the furniture, and the casual use of all walls as work or storage surfaces, gave the place a madly fantastic air. Stevens felt as if he were caught in a Disney. So far the rooms were not living quarters. Stevens wondered what Waldo's private apartments could be like and tried to visualize what equipment would be appropriate. No chairs, no rugs, no bed. Pictures, perhaps. Something pretty clever in the way of indirect lighting, since the eyes might be turned in any direction.

From Waldo, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1942
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Wheelchair Space Station-related news articles:
  - Hawking Follows Path Set By Heinlein's Waldo

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