30 years ago, the Americans dreamed of building a permanently manned space station, the Power Tower. What happened?
Space stations are the future
In Science Illustrated No. 10/1985, the first manned US space station – or at least its design – was introduced. According to plan, the first modules of the Power Tower, which the station is called, were to be launched in 1992. Complete with private rooms for six astronauts, the 100m-long and 150-tonne space station was supposed to be ready for use in 1994.
The Power Tower was never realised in its original version. Instead, the space station changed its name, design, and size several times, before the end of the Cold War paved the way for international cooperation concerning a common manned space station.
The first modules for the ISS, the International Space Station, were orbited in 1998. The ISS was officially finished in 2011, but the first crew came on board in 2000, and ever since, more than 200 astronauts have lived and worked in the ISS. Several of the dreams of the Power Tower era have come true, but they were realised six years later than planned.
The space station module for accommodation and research is some 51 m long, and the entire ISS is 110 m long. The present weight is 420 tonnes,almost triple what the Power Tower would have been. Luxury in the shape of for instance private rooms never became reality. The crew rests in wall-affixed sleeping bags, and a purifying plant converts condensation from sweat and urine into drinking water.