Time zones and separation of functions

One of the major advantages of space colonization by the use of free space habitats instead of planetary “space” colonies, is the separation of functions. Gerard O’Neill already advocated that residence, agriculture and heavy industry should be separated from each other, i.e. that agriculture and heavy industry should not be done in the same structure where most residences are located.

In regard of the separation of agriculture and residency, O’Neill gives two main arguments. First, in a space settlement we have full control over both climate and day length. However, the climate preferred by most citizens is not necessarily the most optimal climate for the cultivation of crops. Second reason is pest control. If in an isolated space farm a pest will occur, it will be easy to deal with it by sterilizing the farm by increasing temperature above the limit life cannot survive. It’s quite obvious that we cannot do this, in a space habitat populated by humans.

For the separation of heavy industry and residency, the arguments are even more straightforward. Heavy industry impose a great danger to health and safety through its pollution and potential of explosion and similar disasters. By banning heavy industries from space habitats, we create a clean and save environment for people to live.

A second argument put forward by O’Neill is related to his proposal to divide space settlements over three time zones, with a 8-hour difference between each successive zone. Because heavy industry is located outside any space habitat, they can be in continuous operation. And if the industry hires shifts from different time zones, night work which is considered as unpleasant by most, will be avoided.

O’Neill imagined that space settlers employed in heavy industry, would commute each day between their home and their workplace. But technology has improved much since the mid 1970s, that nowadays much work can be automated and where people are still needed teleoperation will allow workers to run factories without leaving their space habitats or even their homes.

Besides the desire the avoid night work, there’s another reason for dividing space settlements among different time zones (which surprisingly is not mentioned by O’Neill). The principal power source of space settlements will be solar power. And since there’s no night in space (in space settlements night has to be created by covering the windows), space based solar power plants will run continuously and hence have a continuous output. But the demand for power is not continuous over the day, causing surpluses at some moments and shortages at others.

If we divide the population of three time zones with an 8-hour difference, the power demand curve will be flattened. This because if one settlement is facing a power shortage at some point, it’s likely that another settlement has a surplus since their population is experiencing another phase of the day.

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4 thoughts on “Time zones and separation of functions”

  1. Let me ask 3 questions or observations….not really related to this post.

    You speak of WE as you explain things. Are there more of you? Do others contribute to the ideas? Or do you just use the WE format to make your readers believe there is a big group support (or at least more than one) for the ideas presented? 🙂

    I looked at the google+ page and there is a picture. I didn’t read any explanation of the picture but it looked to me like some garden or plant growing area?

    The background picture for your site looks to me like a part of a space craft. It is a bit blurry and I have often wondered what it is and if there is more to the picture.

    1. Both pictures are images of the interiors of space habitats, just give people an idea how life in a space settlement would look like.

      Republic of Lagrangia is an organisation in its start phase. Though I am currently the only formal member, people are free to join. It would be quite cumbersome to use “I” now, and to change it when there are more members.

      The ideas I discuss are only partially my own. As I read about many different topics, I came along to many interesting ideas. My main job is to connect those many different ideas into one coherent picture.

      1. Thank you.
        I don’t know how old you are and I won’t embarrass myself by making a guess. But do you see yourself as participating in some kind of space project? You have put so much thought into your project that I can’t imagine it to be simply an exercise in writing about space colonization without the hope of at least some of your ideas becoming a reality.

        1. First, I have to congratulate you with being the nummer 3 commenter on this site.

          I am still young enough for this project. My writing are an open invitation for like minded people to join, and work to realize these ideas.

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