"I have been a soreheaded occupant of a file drawer labeled 'Science Fiction' and I would like out, particularly since so many serious critics regularly mistake the drawer for a urinal."
- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
||City of Space
||A very early reference to an enormous cylindrical space station.
This is the earliest reference found (thus far) in science fiction for the idea of a cylindrical space station that is spun to create artificial gravity.
|"The City of Space is in a cylinder," Captain Smith said. "Roughly five thousand feet in diameter, and about that high. it is built largely of meteoric iron which we captured from a meteoric swarm making navigation safe and getting useful metal at the same time. The cylinder whirls constantly, with such speed that the centrifugal force against the sides equals the force of gravity on the earth. The city is built around the inside of the cylinder - so that one can look up and see his neighbor's house, apparently upside down, a mile above his head. We enter through a lock in one end of the cylinder."
A vast disk of dull black metal was now visible a few yards outside the vitrolite panels. A huge metal valve swung open in it, revealing a bright space beyond. The Red Rover moved into the chamber, the mighty valve closed behind her, air hissed in about her, an inner valve was opened, and she slipped into the City of Space.
They were, Bill saw, at the center of an enormous cylinder. The sides, half a mile away, above and below them, were covered with buildings along neat, tree-bordered streets, scattered with green lawns, tiny gardens, and bits of wooded park. It seemed very strange to Bill, to see these endless streets about the inside of a tube, so that one by walking a little over three miles in one direction would arrive again at the starting point, in the same way that one gets back to the starting point after going around the earth in one direction.
At the ends of the cylinder, fastened to the huge metal disks, which closed the ends, were elaborate and complex mechanisms, machines strange and massive. "They must be for heating the city," Bill thought, "and for purifying the air, for furnishing light and power, perhaps even for moving it about." The lock through which they had entered was part of this mechanism.
In the center of each end of the cylinder hung a huge light, seeming large and round as the sun, flooding the place with brilliant mellow rays...
They entered an elevator. Three minutes later they stepped off upon the side of the great cylinder that housed the City, and en- tered a low building with a broad concrete road curving up before it. As they stepped out, it gave Bill a curious dizzy feeling to look up and see busy streets, inverted, a mile above his head. The road before them curved smoothly up on either hand, bordered with beautiful trees, until its ends met again above his head.
The centrifugal force that held objects against the
sides of the cylinder acted in precisely the same way as
gravity on the earth—except that it pulled away from the center of the cylinder, instead of toward it.
|From The Prince of Space,
by Jack Williamson.
Published by Amazing Stories in 1931
Additional resources -
This same idea is stated in detail in The Problem of Space Travel - The Rocket Motor, written by Herman Potočnik (pseudonym Hermann Noordung) in 1928. The book was published in German in 1929, and was translated into Russian in 1935; it was finally translated into english by NASA in 1999).
(Herman Potočnik Habitat Wheel (author's illustration))
These conditions are, however, best fulfilled when the station is laid out in the shape of a large wheel as previously indicated: the rim of the wheel is composed out of cells and has the form of a ring braced by wire spokes towards the axis. Its interior is separated into individual rooms by partitions; all rooms are accessible from a wide corridor going around the entire station. There are individual rooms, larger sleeping bays, work and study areas, mess hall, laboratory, workshop, dark room, etc., as well as the usual utility areas, such as a kitchen, bath room, laundry room and similar areas. All rooms are furnished with modern day comforts; even cold and warm water lines are available. In general, the rooms are similar to those of a modern ship. They can be furnished just like on Earth because an almost normal, terrestrial gravitational state exists in these rooms...
While the force of gravity is directed towards the center of mass, the centrifugal force, on the other hand, is directed away from the center. Therefore, "vertical" in the habitat wheel means the reverse of on Earth: the radial direction from the center (from the axis of rotation) directed outward. Accordingly, "down" now points towards the perimeter and at the same time to the "lowest" part, while "up" now points towards the axis and at the same time to the "highest" point of this manmade celestial body. Taking its smallness into account, the radial orientation of the vertical direction, which in most cases is irrelevant on the Earth due to its size, now clearly becomes evident in the space station. The consequence of this is that all "vertical" directions (such as those for human beings standing erect, the partitions of the rooms, etc.) are now convergent instead of parallel to one another, and everything "horizontal" (e.g., water surface of the bathtub) appears curved instead of flat.
(From The Habitat Wheel
[The Problem of Space Travel - The Rocket Motor])
His ideas spread rapidly in the nascent rocketry and aeronautics groups of the time, despite the lack of translations; it's likely that Williamson picked up on them.
Thanks to Fred Kiesche of The Eternal Golden Braid for providing the quote for this item.
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