The problem with trying to imagine what the future will look like is that it’s impossible to wriggle out of the preconceptions based on what people and places look like right now. Visions of the future inevitably look closer to the time they were imagined in than the era they seek to imagine. That’s true of dated science fiction (everything from Star Trek to The Jetsons has a strange idea of futuristic fashion), but it’s also true of futurist predictions like this:
So it shouldn’t be surprising that despite their enormous resources, NASA is far from immune to this kind of quickly dated speculation. In the 1970s, fresh from the success of the Apollo moon landings, physicists from Princeton, Stanford and NASA’s Ames Research Centre made artistic renderings of space colonies designed to hold 10,000 humans. The result – despite its futuristic theming – is something which looks hugely of its time: a blend of Ladybird children’s books and Soviet propaganda.
While no “due date” was put on the orbiting space colonies, nowadays we’re less inclined to think this far outside the box in terms of colonising other planets. When we finally send humans to Mars at some point in the next 20 years, the approach seems to be broadly based on what we do on Earth – only with far more challenging conditions to overcome than anywhere currently within reach of humans.
You can see the full set of images on the NASA website.