Scientific Possibilities Generate Options and Doubts

Many of the articles in the "Directions in Science" issue seem to me overly optimistic on the probable benefits to mankind of technology in general, but the ones on "space colonies" are so improbable as to be ludicrous.

The prediction that we will have such colonies within 100 years, including vast solar power plants sending energy to Earth, ignores the enormous political, fiscal, safety, and engineering problems involved in the construction, supply, and operation of such colonies.

In the 1960s and '70s we attempted to send four teams of three men each for very short stays on the moon. Two of these teams got there and back safely. A third team survived a propulsion explosion and were able to circle the moon and return safely. The fourth team was killed in a cabin explosion. The cost was over $1 billion per man successfully completing the mission. Even a thousand-fold reduction in cost and improved safety would not make such colonies practical, unlikely as they are. C. Fayette Taylor, Weston, Mass., Professor Emeritus, M.I.T.

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