Jul 10

Star Wars Cloud City Made Real

I’ve been reading Neal Stephenson’s newest book, Seveneves, and mostly enjoying it. That is, I loved it until he gets to part 3, which is set 5,000 years into the future, which, frankly, I have a harder time relating to than 5,000 years in the past, say, the time of Cleopatra, (actually 2078 years ago).

But if I understand what he is getting at in part 3, I think he solved how to make Star Wars’ floating city/cloud city (located on planet Bespin) real.

Here’s my take on it:


He has a thing called the Eye in geo-stationary orbit over the equator; below it is something tethered to it called the Cradle. It’s a small city hovering about 2,000 meters above sea level; it’s open to the elements, which is cool and not tethered to the earth so presumably it swings about somewhat in the wind.

At the other end of the tether is a counter weight so the whole contraption is balanced, and doesn’t move around a whole lot. It would still require some expenditure of propellant to keep it in its orbit, but it would be a tiny fraction of any other plausible engineering solution (short of inventing anti-gravity or floating the damn thing in an atmosphere which has the density of water or higher).

What would I add to Neal’s concept?

-I’d make the tether retractable so both the cradle and its counter weight could be drawn into geo-stationary orbit if required to, say, avoid a typhoon or a bolide/space junk (which presumably would be infrequent, most space junk being avoided by tiny adjustments of its orbit)

-I’d make the Cradle seaworthy so you could land it in the ocean for resupply (someone else’ll have to solve the buoyancy problem–once the cradle’s weight is seaborne, what happens to the eye and its counterweight, which would have a tendency to fly off into space?)

-I’d use the tether as a space elevator to inexpensively get things/people from sea level to orbit.

Oh yeah, I’d also rename it–Saragasso City for reasons not disclosed at this time.

@ quantum_entity @ profbruce

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.