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Jeff Bezos Dreams of a 1970s Future

If the sci-fi space cities of Bezos’s Blue Origin look familiar, it’s because they’re derived from the work of his college professor, the late physicist Gerard O’Neill.  
An artist's rendering of a space habitat that Jeff Bezos presented onstage for Blue Origin. The Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego, can be seen at right, and a city that resembles Seattle appears in the background.
An artist's rendering of a space habitat that Jeff Bezos presented onstage for Blue Origin. The Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego, can be seen at right, and a city that resembles Seattle appears in the background.Blue Origin

One afternoon in Washington, D.C., a man delivered a high-stakes presentation about the future of humans in outer space. We would need to go and live there, he told his audience, because the expansion of human life beyond Earth was the only alternative to stagnation and stasis.

It was a turbulent time: Cultural change had seemed to slow down, and people were newly aware that resources on Earth were shrinking, while pollution and environmental destruction were growing. If our horizons didn’t expand, the man warned, they might end up limited forever.