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The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space: Apogee Books Space Series 12 3rd Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1896522678
ISBN-10: 189652267X
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Rocket man, I think it's going to be a long, long time. When Princeton physicist Gerard K. O'Neill published the first edition of High Frontier back in the mid 1970s (just four years after "Rocket Man," to be exact), he just assumed that some of us would be living in orbit by now. Or as the Space Studies Institute's George Friedman puts it in a new essay for this third edition of O'Neill's pioneering work, the L5 society's slogan "L5 in '95!" certainly wasn't referring to 2095.

In High Frontier, O'Neill had mapped out a straightforward, manifestly doable path to putting humans into space permanently and sustainably, using 1970s materiel and current-day Zubrin-style know-how. But O'Neill died in 1992 seeing humanity no closer to fulfilling his bold vision. Freeman Dyson points out in a new introduction to this edition that in many ways we've actually backslided, that the International Space Station (and the current role of NASA) is "not a step forward on the road to the High Frontier. It's a big step backward, a setback that will take decades to overcome."

But O'Neill's idea of pursuing an inexhaustible energy supply (solar power in space) and endless room to expand remains tantalizingly attractive. The science has only gotten easier, and the moral imperative has only become more pronounced, with the planet's resources ever steadily squeezed and the recent knowledge that a mass-extinction event on Earth is nearly inevitable. (O'Neill calls the High Frontier the only chance to make human life--perhaps all life in the universe--"unkillable.") The High Frontier is as exciting a read as it ever was, and six new chapters provide context for the advances made in the 25 years since O'Neill's original manifesto. But perhaps the best addition to this printing is the chance to see and hear the soft-spoken physicist himself, in more than an hour of MPEG video included on the CD-ROM. --Paul Hughes

About the Author

Gerard K. O’Neill, PhD, was a faculty member of the physics department at Princeton University. He founded the Space Studies Institute and invented the storange ring technique for colliding particle beams.
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Product Details

  • Series: Apogee Books Space Series
  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Collector's Guide Publishing, Inc.; 3rd edition (December 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 189652267X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1896522678
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #787,913 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brooke P. Anderson on August 19, 1997
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
THE HIGH FRONTIER is an excellent book on the practicality andeconomics of the human colonization of space -- very entertaining toread and full of interesting technical information. It is the classic work on the subject -- highly regarded by folks such as Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, and Thomas Paine (former administrator of NASA). When this influential book was first published, it changed a lot of minds throughout the world.

Is human colonization of space achievable even with 1970's-1980's technology? Could it be profitable on a global-economic scale? The author thinks so and tells us why and how; and his credentials are impressive.

The author, Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill, was a tenured professor of physics at Princeton and one of the founders of the Geostar Satellite Corporation (a company that worked on implementing GPS satellites). Many of the conclusions in the book are backed up by actual experiment and by numerous studies done both within and without NASA.

This is one of the handful of books that have helped to shape my outlook on the future of mankind -- a strong statement reserved for an excellent and influential work.

-- Brooke P. Anderson
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This book is amazing. This 3rd edition has two parts: the first is the original text by the late Gerard O'Neil, one of the great visionaries of the 20th century. Though things did not develop in the time scale he hoped for, his message is as valid today as it was in 1980 -- or even more so. The second part of the book is a series of chapters by contemporary leaders in the aerospace industry, and provide a fresh, modern perspective on where we've come since O'Neil's day, where we need to go, and how to get there.
The emphasis of this book is more on what we need to do, why we need to do it, and what that would be like, than on the details of "how." Other books cover the "how" in more detail. But because of the focus of this one, it is easily read by anyone; no special technical or math skills are required.
After reading only part of this book, I did some web searches and found that the concept of space solar power (which is central to O'Neil's thesis) is still very much alive today. NASA did a new study on it just a couple years ago, and it has been discussed in Congress increasingly often since then. It is a very real concept, very nearly ready for implementation. Read this book to find out why it's so very important.
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By Alex on February 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
O'Niell's writings (the first 12 chapters) are as well written and exciting as ever. His vision of how humanity should enter space is unsurpassed, despite now being some 25 years old.
The additional chapters don't seem to add too much. I was hoping for a good description of where we've got to, and how things have changed. For example, in O'Niell's time, the richness, number and accessibility of Near Earth Asteroids was not known, but there is little in the book on the how these could be used to make O'Niell's original vision easier to fulfill. Likewise, Tether technology could reduce Earth launch costs and bring the vision closer to reality. None of this is covered.
John Lewis has a good section on Space Law, but to see new ideas from him, you have to read "Mining the Sky"
Overall, if you've never read The High Frontier, this book is an excellent buy. If you've already got the previous edition at home, the six chapters don't add too much, and there's better information on the internet.
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This was written in the 1970s, and all the numbers and budgets and economic models are based on the published performance of NASA's Space Shuttle - which turned out to be wildly optimistic. Rather than flying 60 times a year for a cost of US$ 20 million per flight, the Shuttle ended up with a maximum flight rate of nine per year (which NASA only managed once, in 1985) and a per-flight cost of between $500 million and $1.5 billion depending on who's doing the math.

Given that huge discrepancy in the initial assumptions, everything following is essentially pure fantasy.

However, this is not to say that it's worthless. The designs of the stations are ingenious and practical (given the availability of funds and in-space infrastructure, which isn't looking like it'll happen very soon). Other technologies described in the book, such as the mass driver and solar power satellites, have become part of the list of tools we expect to use during the conquest of the solar system.

The main problem with the book is that Dr. O'Neill started with the idea of an orbital paradise he would like to live in, then worked backwards from there and attempted to figure out a way to make it happen. His economics and politics strike me as being hopelessly unrealistic.

The engineering is the good stuff here. And if capitalism can fix the economic and political problems, which I believe will happen, then we may someday see people living in space habitats that look a lot like what's described here.
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Format: Paperback
Written in the 1970s, this book details O'Neill's vision of space colonies - huge space stations built from lunar material, selling solar power beamed to earth. Although his timetable of such colonies by the 1990s turned out to be too optimistic, this book is very much worth a look, both for historical reasons, and also to see what will happen once the price of access to space drops.
Packed with technical detail, O'Neill's plan is based on two assumptions - that the price of access to space would drop, and that the price of energy would rise. Neither came true in the early 1980s. The Space Shuttle did not make space flight cheap as promised, and low energy costs did not make space based solar power economical. In the near future though the space frontier may very well develop just as he foresaw.
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