Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, later adapted into an anime series, was originally released as a serial novel by Harutoshi Fukui and published in Kadokawa Shoten's Gundam Ace magazine. The opening prologue chapter, published in the February 2007 issue of Gundam Ace, describes the ceremony surrounding the start of the Universal Century and the terror attack that destroys the space station Laplace.
While the main action continues, we hear excerpts of a broadcast interview in which an expert discusses the construction of the space colonies, and offers projections about the eventual number of colonies and their population. As this scene takes place in U.C.0001, these estimates are obviously speculative. But the excerpts provide some interesting figures, and I've translated them here.
As of this writing, the Japanese text of the prologue is available in PDF form from the official Gundam Unicorn website.
The following text is copyright © 2007 Harutoshi Fukui, Sotsu, and Sunrise.
After some opening remarks, the broadcast announcer introduces a guest expert.
These space colonies that will become a new living space for humanity... what kind of world will this be? With the Universal Century just about to begin, we'd like to review this once again. Our guest today is a leading figure in space engineering, Dr. Alexey Glansky...
Interview continues, with Dr. Glanksy speaking.
The space colony concept itself already existed as of the middle of the twentieth century. It was proposed by the physicist G. K. O'Neill, but what made his idea so revolutionary was that it involved constructing a habitat suitable for humanity in outer space.
Previously, the term "space colonization" meant, at best, the idea of remodeling the planetary environment of Mars or Venus, which could only be achieved in the world of science fiction. O'Neill's space colonies, called "islands," were a plan that could be realized even with currently existing technology. It's accurate to say that the foundation of today's space settlement project, including the provision of construction materials from the Moon and asteroid belt, was completed by O'Neill.
Their construction is extremely simple. When a sphere or cylindrical structure is rotated at a certain rate, a gravity of 1G, identical to that of Earth, is produced on its inner walls. When you rapidly spin a water-filled bucket, centrifugal force keeps the water from spilling out, right? It's the same principle.
"Island 1," the early spherical type, was barely big enough to generate 1G. But the newest "Island 3" is a huge object with a length of 32 kilometers and a diameter of 6.4 kilometers. The inner walls of this huge cylinder are furnished with forests, rivers, and towns, creating a habitat just like Earth in which the space colonists will live.
Naturally, there is also day and night in a space colony. The mirrors attached to the "Island 3" type, whose length rivals that of the colony itself, serve to bring in sunlight. As shown in this diagram, the inner walls of the cylinder are divided lengthwise into six sections. Three of these are windows for illumination, known as "rivers," and the light that enters them shines onto each of the three residential sections. These "rivers" are made from thick glass that serves to block ultraviolet rays and cosmic radiation that would be harmful to the human body.
At present, three colonies of the "Island 3" type have been completed. Thus far, only engineers and pioneers have emigrated along with their families, but we've had no reports of serious disease outbreaks caused by the colony environment. By adjusting the lighting level, we can reproduce the four seasons, and even create rain by deploying artificial clouds. Because it's perfectly controlled, one might call it a more comfortable living environment than Earth.
Space is truly vast, but if we take the relative distance of the Earth and Moon as a constant, we can't build just anywhere we like. The space colonies are constructed at gravitationally stable points known as Lagrange points, produced by the gravitational interaction of the Earth and Moon. There are five of these points along the Moon's orbital path, named L1 through L5 respectively.
The three "Island 3" colonies I mentioned previously are stationed at L5, the most stable of these, forming a settlement called Side 1. Ten million people are currently living there, but with the start of full-scale settlement next year, we expect the population will rapidly increase. Colonies of this type are being successively constructed, and we ultimately expect that each Side will be made up of 70 or 80 colonies, functioning as a self-governing municipality within the Federation.
The announcer interjects a question...
If a single colony can accommodate about ten million people, then the population of one Side would be 700 or 800 million. How many Sides do we expect will ultimately be constructed under the space settlement project?
...and Glansky answers.
Under the present plan, we anticipate constructing up to Side 6, but they say that alone will take fifty years. The hypothetical capacity of all the colonies is approximately 5 billion people. At this point the total population is 9 billion, and factoring in the rate of population growth over the next fifty years, we calculate that about half of the total population will be space colonists.
But think about that. Even so, there would still be five billion people left on Earth. That's the same number as the late twentieth century, when we began worrying about the population explosion, and it's still too many for Earth's natural environment to recover. Ideally, Earth's resident population should be less than two billion.
If we built two Sides at each Lagrange point, there would be a maximum of ten Sides, and it might be possible for ten billion people to live in space. But it would take a hundred years to complete all that construction, and who knows what the total population will be by then? Nobody can say precisely, and it's optimistic to think that Earth's environment will have recovered by that point. Honestly, we can only put our trust in the wisdom of humanity a hundred years hence.
To those who are opposed to the space settlement project, I ask that you properly understand this reality. We humans have been able to carry out this unimaginable plan by establishing the unified political authority known as the Earth Federation government. We stand on the brink of self-destruction, with our eyes on the future a hundred years from now. There are some who argue that the space settlement project is a Federation government policy of human abandonment--
The interview is abruptly terminated at this point, evidently by government censors.
Mobile Suit Gundam is copyright © Sotsu • Sunrise. Everything else on this site, and all original text and pictures, are copyright Mark Simmons.