Found communities can be terrestrial analogues to deep space urban centers

Milagro ("The Miracle" in Spanish) is a Tucson, Arizona municipality founded to isolate its members from the alleged dire consequences of a computer anomaly in 2000 called the Millennium Bug. The community consists of 28 homes and 50 residents, ranging from zero to 92, on 42 acres. Planning began in 1994 and construction was completed in 2002.

There are small gardens and what is billed on the website as "community orchard". Residents do most of the support on a voluntary basis, including the operation of a wastewater treatment system that recovers black water for irrigation through a biological process involving reeds.

Members (who buy or rent one of the 28 existing homes) hold policy development meetings, which they call "agreements," sharply avoiding the term "rules." The goal is always consensus. Voting is a last resort.

Although the community is made up of older couples, the younger ones join in as their houses change hands. Some are drawn by the sense of security provided by social arrangements. Another attraction is the ethics of self-sufficiency, which is increasingly expressed as utility prices rise and reliability decreases. In the winter of 2010, gas supplies to the Southwest proved insufficient and parts of the city were left without heat. People have in mind California's summer outages and outages, as well as rising electricity costs and increasing system requirements imposed by electric vehicles and unstable renewables.

Like Milagro, a space habitat or urban center with deep outer space, whether on the surface of another world or in space, would have a common infrastructure and a limited life cycle requiring maintenance, repair and eventual replacement. Some of the requirements are the same: shelter, electricity, water and wastewater management, agricultural production and transportation are similar in space and on Earth in broad terms. Many of the technologies needed are virtually identical. Solid waste management is one element that has not yet been designed to satisfy anyone, even the Earth.

To give an idea of ​​what the requirements of the space colony might be, we can cite the results of the ongoing work started by Gerard K. O & # 39;The high limit), T.A. Hepenheimer (Colonies in Space) and others in the 1970s. A Bernal sphere, for example, would be just over half a mile in diameter with a number of smaller rings arranged at each end of its rotating axis. Agricultural and industrial facilities are located in the rings, along with space for a zero gravity axis. Rotating the axis provides a kind of artificial gravity on the inside of the sphere. (A person's weight drops when a person climbs the inner walls from the "equator" to the axis of gravity at zero.) The illumination is through a toroidal periscope, using external mirrors to collect sunlight. Mirrors also adjust the length of day. In the built environment, there are 10,000 people inside the terrace. It is protected from radiation by the lunar regolith and water used to create an earthly environment. (The materials come from the moon and / or asteroids, not from Earth, which means that space exploration is a necessary first step, but that's another topic.)

Space habitat design cannot neglect the potentially deadly effects of enclosure. The right to leave the individual must be reserved. I believe this is best done by dividing the city center into cells, small communities like Milagro separated by open space. Every community must be as sustainable as possible.

The optimal size of the community may depend on the technology, with the goal being a minimum sustainable unit size. Milagro's strategy was to pool the resources of a dozen or so financially couples to build a community and then sell units. The problem is that some of the buyers did not understand the goals of the community, thinking that they had purchased in a unit where they could ask to be served to their needs and were ready to be in maximum need.

It may be better to organize space communities (or their counterparts on Earth) on less collective principles, partly to avoid what conservationist Gareth Hardin called "the tragedy of communities," but most of all to give priority of the rights of the individual. One such approach might be to create a community as a corporation that could, in principle, be owned by its share-buying residents. The corporation leases space for smaller businesses, industrial, commercial and residential.

The corporation realizes its profits by building, maintaining and leasing mandatory common systems: habitat structure, environmental and life support, fire fighting, solid waste management and basic electricity for industrial and commercial use. Villages have the ability to recycle water for direct re-use of drinking water, generate electricity for local use, grow food locally and provide their own security and ancillary environmental controls, or can purchase these services from commercial sources. The Hub has no obligations in these matters. Of course, one can also organize a colony, on Earth or in space, using collectivist principles and see what happens. The point is, it's an experiment.

Like the American colonies of four hundred years ago, found communities can build reliable testing facilities for alternative social and philosophical arrangements. They can also test new technologies for self-sufficiency (eg distributed power, solar energy and wastewater reuse) that act as analogues to space habitats. Unlike relying on centralized resources, they represent an active approach to the future.

You can visit Milagro online at You can also visit in real space. Tours are optional.