You think the International Space Station is impressive? You know nothing.

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To be fair, the ISS is the quintessential human space outpost – an orbiting icon of diplomacy, scientific progress and technological achievement. (It also gets major points for, you know, actually existing in real life.) But for as impressive as the ISS is, it is but a pale shadow of the city-sized space colonies conceived of by NASA scientists in the summer of 1975.

Artificial gravity. Trees. Interstellar sunsets. Bustling suburban infrastructure. Sprawling fields of produce. HANG GLIDING. These scientifically informed artistic renderings have it all. Designed for populations ranging from 10,000 to one million, these deep-space settlement concepts are the result of three "space colony summer studies" conducted by researchers with NASA's Ames Research Center in 1975 at Stanford University, and they are utterly superb.

All images, artist info and captions via NASA Ames Research Center

Toroidal Colonies (a.k.a. "The Stanford Torus") | Population 10,000–140,000

Exterior view // Don Davis

Cutaway view, exposing the interior // Rick Guidice

Interior view // Don Davis

Construction along the torus rim // Don Davis


Bernal Spheres | Population 10,000–30,000

Exterior view // Rick Guidice

Cutaway view of a Bernal Sphere // Rick Guidice

Agricultural models in cutaway view (multiple toroids) // Rick Guidice

Interior including human powered flight // Rick Guidice


Cylindrical Colonies | Population: Over One Million

Exterior view of a double cylinder colony // Rick Guidice

Interior view looking out through large windows // Rick Guidice

Eclipse of the sun with view of clouds and vegetation // Don Davis

Endcap view with suspension bridge // Don Davis


NASA and jawdropping vintage concept art go together like rocket fuel and oxidizer. For more, check out these mock-ups from the Shuttle Program's early days.

[NASA ARC via SPACE.com]