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The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space

(Apogee Books Space Series #12)

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  371 ratings  ·  42 reviews
This expanded third edition features a new preface, introduction, and collection of essays by space researchers.
Paperback, 184 pages
Published December 1st 2000 by Collector's Guide Publishing, Inc. (first published January 1977)
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051216 from ??? childhood: this is the second review: can i truly say i have read this twice?- the first time was a paperback, with coloured illustrations, i must have been a teenager (under 17 my usual cutoff) so this was not first edition, which i see here was forty-two years ago! i had forgotten how much this book is dedicated to making the economic case, not relying on anything like the tech since common. in a way, this reminds me of verne, describing the fantastic according to his time, mak ...more
Paddy Cole
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Straight from the good days of science fiction where there is hope and potential, compared to the bleak post-apocalyptic content we see these days.

Gerard K O'Neill may have had an idealistic vision of the future of the human race, but he backed it up with hard science and theory whilst still making it accessible to the average person.

He nicely balances the history of space exploration, theories from the science community in his time, and his own hypothesis and ideas in regards to road-mapping
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: real-space
I enjoyed this book more for what it represents than for the actual content. A shining dream that if not for the Challenger and Columbia disasters, and NASA's woeful management of the space program, might be partly realised today. This is the future I always wanted to live in growing up, the clean and white-plastic future of 1970s films and Vincent di Fate paintings. Something hopeful. May it yet come.
Steve Van Slyke
Sep 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Space exploration enthusiasts, activists, and historians
Recommended to Steve by: Various authors
Shelves: space, science, kindle
A complaint I sometimes have about plans, ideas or programs put forth by space advocates (I consider myself to be one) is that they are often long on the what, but short on the why. O'Neill may be deficient in other areas of his proposals, but the "Why" is not one of them and I have to applaud him for that. His primary justification is the development of cheap energy for Earth. That would at least get venture capitalists to put down their coffee. And secondly he offers new Real Estate to provide ...more
Davis Falk
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-read-list
This is the most exciting and thought-provoking book I have read in some time. I heard recently that this book inspired Jeff Bezos's interest in space, which led him to form Blue Origin, with the aim of accomplishing exactly what The High Frontier envisions, millions of people living and working in space.

Bezos is the CEO and founder of One of the Amazon TV series, The Expanse, also incorporates many of the concepts of this book, including mining of the asteroid belt, and people livin
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Well written books but I am the only one who is NOT looking forward for space colonization. I mean, what makes human think that if he messed up life on Earth that was perfect to begin with, he won't mess it up on other planets.

So, please DO NOT colonize space until you sorted out your very sad situation on this planet.
John Jr.
Mar 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Politics and economics had much to do with the fate of this dream of the future from physicist Gerard K. O'Neill, first published in the mid-1970s. Since the 19th century at least, nations had been seeking a competitive advantage by pursuing high technology. Much that was achieved in unmanned and manned flight up to the landing of humans on the moon had brought payoffs not only in terms of national prestige but also in many military and civilian applications. What's more, these developments had ...more
Jul 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this book as a teenager and ate it up. Rereading it in my early 30's I notice a few things I glossed over back then:

(1) a Malthusian view of the world, the errant view that people would outpace resources.
"the evils of environmental damage are minor compared to others that have appeared: sharp limits on food, energy, and materials confront us at a time when most of the human race is still poor, and when much of it is on the edge of starvation"

(2) Naïveté with respect to the promise of the
Jul 11, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, science, space
Hard to tell if this is naïve or way ahead of its time. I mean, there's nothing that I know of that's strictly impossible in here, but it's almost forty years since publication and our one fully functional space station is nowhere near the Islands or Bernal Spheres that the author outlines. I think the big thing stopping us is the sheer cost of getting a payload out of our gravity well, something O'Neill doesn't really address and that a lot of people mistakenly thought would just get easier as ...more
Jose Moa
Nov 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
In this rather optimistic, tecnologically plausible book the profesor ONeill develops space colonies or islands of great size, populated by humans exploiting resources of other astronomic bodies tan Earth in orthe to solve the population and finite resources of Earth problem;the book is full of illustrations and sketches of the space islands .It is a interesting book with historical value;i think the movie Elysium is influenced by this book
Eric Pavao
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
How humanity could have settled the solar system with 1970/80s technology. I can't recommend this book enough. Put down whatever you are reading and start this book, if you want to know what motivates Jeff Bezos in his Blue Origin rocket company. This book may give us a blueprint of what to expect in the relatively near future as humans finally start to get off this rock.
Gregory Bennett
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I first read The High Frontier in 1977 after running into Keith and Caroline Hensen at the World Science Fiction Convention in Boston. (Or was it Kansas City the year before?) They were just getting the L-5 Society going at the time and were hoping that someone would start forming local chapters. So I did: the Northwest L-5 Society was born with members from Washington, Idaho, British Columbia, and Oregon. Over next year I found myself doing 100 (exactly) public lectures about space colonies and ...more
Feb 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book covers physicist Gerard K. O'Niell's wildly over-optimistic studies, ideas and speculations (along with similar overlapping NASA studies) developed in the 1970's on the construction and deployment of huge space colonies / habitats -- basically giant space stations (along with the accompanying infrastructure like mass drivers and manufacturing facilities in space) mostly located between the Earth and the Moon that would house tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people. Th ...more
Mark Ehlen
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this book as an civil engineering undergraduate, forty years ago, and never forgot the straightforward discussions on how to colonize space using existing technologies. Seems very relevant to today, when space exploration is going to likely eclipse all earth activities and we need to have the believing forethought to make it a reality, a memorable reality where all can participate and benefit.
Mandy Bellm
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Exactly what I was looking for. Absolutely bonkers that O'Neill came up with all of this in the 1970's and much of it is still relevant today. I'm a little obsessed!
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the wake of the Apollo program, humanity was in a mindset we truly can be proud of: "What's next? The universe is the limit!"

Unfortunately, we then dragged ourselves through half a century of close-mindedness, petty politics, and unpardonable lack of vision. We've fallen embarrassingly short of Gerard's beautiful and practical visions. This is no fault of his own. So long, beautiful dreamer. Thank you for sharing your glimpse of what we truly could have used these past decades for.
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, nonfiction
The High Frontier (1976) by Gerard K O'Neill describes how humans could build large space colonies in the solar system. O'Neil was physicist who specialised in high energy physics.

The book outlines how space colonies could be built and how they would be superior to planetary colonisation. These large space habitats would be placed near stable Lagrangian points. The initial colonies would be rotating spheres and the equatorial regions would have centrifugal force to feel like gravity. Later colo
Stan McCown
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone.
Gerard K. O'Neill was a physicist with a number of innovations to his credit. In his book THE HIGH FRONTIER: HUMAN COLONIES IN SPACE, O'Neill put forward a proposal as a follow-up mission for the space program after the lunar landings, to combine the construction of solar power satellites and large space habitats, built from materials mined from the moon, and later from asteroids. O'Neill foresaw space colonies as a way to create a new industrial zone off the planet, using materials available fr ...more
Jul 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of space exploration and the curious
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Books like this are so sad in some respects. O'Neill wasn't alone in the seventies. There were other writers (Jerry Pournelle comes to mind right off the bat) and scientists who were arguing the same case. They knew that after the Apollo program had ended the drive to get Humanity into space had also ended. It's an optomistic book, but rather sad considering what has (or hasn't happened) since it was originally published in 1975.

I've always been a fan of space exploration and a long time fan of
Bruce McNair
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with an interest in space
This book is a superb look at the possibilities of establishing space colonies and the many benefits that could ensue from doing so. The benefits could potentially solve many of the big problems facing mankind especially renewable energy (using solar power satellites) and, in the long run, climate change and over population. The latter could help alleviate many economic problems and potentially reduce conflict/war. The book was written in 1976, but the proposals were achievable with the technolo ...more
Matthew Monsoor
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This got me started in being an avocate for moving industry off the planet and locating it in various "zones" called Lagrangian Points. These are stable locations related to where the Earth, Moon, and possibly the Sun and where the gradational attraction balances. Colonizing the Moon first for minerals needed for manufacturing, start collecting asteroids between Mars and Jupiter also for minerals needed for manufacturing. Once enough material is manufactured on the moon its transported to one of ...more
A prescient book, looking ahead to the time when humanity starts to explore and settle other parts of the solar system. O'Neill does a great job of explaining the technological problems and some practical solutions, showing that people could start this expansion from Earth with current technology. As we look at the challenges and issues of global climate change and the damage to the environment produced by a lot of our industries and technologies, I believe it's looking smarter every day for hum ...more
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: space, environment
This book definitely belongs to this decade: endless possibilities after humanity's landing on the moon, but clear threats with cold war and the realisation of possibles limits to growth.

Gerard K. O'Neil makes a strong case for the why of space colonisation. Why struggle down on Earth when endless resources are available in space? They would, in a matter of decades, let us relief our home planet of our excessive footprint.

He also details the how, based on existing technologies at the time of wri
Chris Pearson
Needs a new edition!

If read when it was published, this book would be awesome.

I liked the diagrams and the detail of how to bootstrap such an effort.

Reading from a 21st century perspective, it would be good to get an update on (a) the tech, and (b) the timelines suggested by the book. It could also have been structured more cleanly, and I felt the author was a bit naive about the fragility of habitats - not versus nature, but versus aggressors.
May 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
With Apollo-era can-do spirit, O'Neill convincingly shows how we can mine oxygen on the moon, beam solar power back to earth, build colonies in high earth orbit, and homestead the asteroids, all using 1970s era technology.

He promises we'll be living in Island One at L5 orbit by 2005, at the latest.

A fun book for space nerds. The definitive book on giant space colony design.
Ben Vogel
Jan 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Great book! I read this as a kid. This should be happening by now. I'm a bit pissed off that the promising future of men walking on the moon which I watched as a toddler has not only failed to emerge, it seems we have regressed.

Mankind's future isn't here on earth, and we are in trouble if we continue to hold all of our eggs in one basket.
Patricia Green
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book is elderly, but it is full of so much hope and promise that I just loved it. I write sci-fi-type stuff and got so much inspiration from it. The details are excellent, and there are enough pictures that even some difficult concepts are illustrated well. I highly recommend "The High Frontier" to people who are into the real details about how humans can make space work for them.
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Loved the artwork, and the clever idea of suggesting that placement of solar energy collecting satellites would be the reason for a moon colony, and that the money from this enterprise would fund further space colonies. Also the idea that it would be cheaper to build the colonies in space, and the idea for the mass accelerator.
Aki Ranin
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is now mandatory reading for space geeks and futurists in 2019, since Jeff Bezos came out with his vision for Blue Origin and life in space in these artificial worlds imagined by O’Neill. It’s wonderfully aged and contextual to the life, struggles, successes, and ultimately tragedy of O’Neill’s life’s work.
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Probably the biggest advocate of space colonization with one of the most detailed plans for human settlements in space. If everyone in NASA and space exploration in general were as passionate and brilliant as O'Neill was, then his slogan of "L5 in '95" would be a reality by now.
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