An O’Neill cylinder is a space settlement concept proposed by American physicist Gerard K. O’Neill in his 1976 book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space. O’Neill proposed the colonization of space for the 21st century, using materials extracted from the Moon and later from asteroids.
The concept was laid out in 1976 in a classic book by physicist Gerard O’Neill, titled “The High Frontier.” The idea is to create cylinder-shaped structures in outer space, and give them enough of a spin that residents on the inner surface of the cylinder could live their lives in Earth-style gravity. The habitat’s interior would be illuminated either by reflected sunlight or sunlike artificial light.
O’Neill cylinders and their ilk have become a standby for hard science-fiction stories. For example, in Kim Stanley Robinson’s “2312,” hollowed-out asteroids known as “terraria” house communities that travel back and forth between planets. In the movie “Interstellar,” Matthew McConaghey’s character finds himself inside an O’Neill-type outpost named Cooper Station near Saturn.
Jeff Bezos quoted
“Then we get to see Gerard O’Neill’s ideas start to come to life, and many of the other ideas from science fiction,” Bezos said. “The dreamers come first. It’s always the science-fiction guys: They think of everything first, and then the builders come along and they make it happen. But it takes time.”