Sean Ragan of MAKE magazine just posted this amazing graphic, which he tracked down after being mildly obsessed with it for more than a decade. It’s an “Integrated Space Plan” drawn up by Rockwell International, a conglomerate of manufacturing companies in the aerospace, electronics, and truck component industries. The plan was created in the ’80s, and is supposed to be a detailed flow chart for establishing a permanent human presence in space. And it. Is. Amazing.
You can click to make this teeny version a little bigger, but for serious evaluation you should get the PDF from MAKE. Once you do that, you can try to actually follow the plan — it runs chronologically from top to bottom, the arrowed lines denote “evolutionary, supporting, or synergistic relationships” and “communication/data links,” and big circles are “plateaus of human technological achievement.” Or you can just bask in the fractal weirdness of the thing. Nodes on the chart include goals like “Interstellar Traversing World Ships” and “Create New Moons for Mars If Required.”
As far as I can tell we’re currently supposed to be in the “Routine Access to Space Achieved” plateau AND the “Biplanetary Civilization Evolves to Exploit Extraterrestrial Resources” plateau, so we can see how well this is working out. So basically this will either make you excited about living in a pale copy of 1989’s vision of the future, or depressed because we’re not realistically on track for “Independent Spacefaring Human Communities” and “Large Scale Human Habitation of Mars.”