Androcells Everywhere

The androcell is a concept that the German-American rocket scientist Krafft A. Ehricke (1917-84) introduced in the 1970s. According to Ehricke, the androcell would be a very large, humanmade new world—an independent, self-contained human biosphere not located on any naturally existing celestial object. In his strategic vision, such humanmade miniworlds (or planetellas) would use mass far more efficiently than the natural worlds of the solar system, which formed out of the original solar nebular material some 4.6 billion years ago. The naturally formed terrestrial planets (Earth, Mars, Mercury, and Venus) and the wide variety of moons found throughout the solar system are essentially "solid" spherical objects of great mass. The surface gravity force on each of these solid-surface worlds results from the self-attraction of this very large quantity of matter. However, except for the first mile (kilometer) or so, the interior of each of the natural worlds is essentially "useless" from the perspective of human habitation.

Instead of large quantities of matter, the androcell would use rotation (centrifugal inertia) to provide variable levels of artificial gravity. The unusable solid interior of a natural celestial body is now replaced (through human ingenuity and engineering) with many useful inhabitable layers of airtight, habitable cylinders. In concept, inhabitants of an androcell would be able to enjoy a truly variable lifestyle in a multiple-gravity-level miniworld. There would be a maximum gravity level at the outer edges of the androcell, tapering off to essentially zero gravity in the inner cylinder levels closest to the central hub.

One especially important idea contained within Ehricke's overall visionary concept is that the androcell would not be tied to the Earth-Moon system. Rather—with its giant space-based factories, farms, and fleets of merchant spacecraft—the androcell would be free to seek political and economic development throughout heliocentric space. The inhabitants of a particular androcell might trade with Earth, the Moon, Mars, or with other androcells.

These giant space settlements, containing from 10,000 to as many as 100,000 or more people, represent the space age analogy to the city-states of ancient Greece. The multiple-gravity-level lifestyle would also encourage migration to and from settlements on other "natural" worlds—per-haps a terraformed Mars, an environmentally subdued Venus, or maybe even one of the larger moons of the giant outer planets. In essence, as implied by the name, the androcell represents the enabling technology for the cellular division of humanity. While the majority of the andro-cells might cluster in the continuously habitable zone (CHZ) of the solar system, those autonomous extraterrestrial city-states powered by nuclear energy would allow their inhabitants to pursue physically and culturally diverse lifestyles throughout the outer solar system.

Of course, the human race already has the initial, natural androcell—it is called "Spaceship Earth." In time, inhabitants of humankind's parent world will be able to use their technical skills and intelligence to fashion a series of such androcells or other very large habitable space structures throughout the solar system. As the number of these artificial space habitats grows, a swarm of settlements could eventually encircle the Sun, capturing and using all of its radiant energy output. At that point, humans'

solar-system civilization will have created a Dyson sphere, making the next step of cosmic mitosis—migration to the stars—technically, economically, and socially feasible.

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