A Space Colony is an artificial habitat built by humans, usually at one of the Lagrangian points, to allow human habitation in space. The interior of each space colony usually replicates the surface of the Earth and the colony simulates gravity by rotating.
For a list of known colonies and asteroids in the Universal Century see Universal Century Locations.
In the Universal Century timeline, space colonies are placed at the five Earth-Moon Lagrangian point. In most cases, a Lagrangian point is home to more than one group of space colonies. Individual colony pairs are known as Colonies, and a group of colonies that occupy a Lagrangian point are known collectively as a Side. Because Sides sometimes share a single Lagrangian point, it is possible to have two Sides in close orbit to one another. All colonies in the Universal Century are O'Neill "Island 3" type colony cylinders, except for the "closed-type" colonies of Side 3.
The average size of an “open-type” cylindrical colony is 6.4 km in diameter and 36.0 km in length. The cylinder’s interior is divided into six lengthwise strips. There are three window sections that let in sunlight from outside, alternating with three land sections where the people live. Outside each window section is a huge mirror, which reflects sunlight to illuminate the land section on the opposite side. By adjusting the angle of the mirrors facing the sun, the level of sunlight can be controlled to create a sense of passing time and different seasons. Since the space colony’s main source of energy is sunlight, the mirrors are controlled so that they always face the sun. As a result, the bases of the mirrors are placed on the opposite end of the colony from the sun. At the end of the colony opposite the sun, many dome-shaped agricultural plants are arranged in a ring with a radius of 14.35 km. These plants are separated into three blocks, which are positioned so that they are not hidden in the shadows of the mirrors. Although these plants are able to produce more than enough food for the colony’s inhabitants, their life is far from comfortable, as all surplus food is semi-forcibly exported to the Earth Federation. The colony rotates about its lengthwise axis to create a simulated gravity of 1G. There is debate over what level of gravity humans require, but at the very least, it’s known that extended exposure to a zero-gravity environment causes physiological disorders such as brittle bones due to the loss of calcium. In addition, this rotationally created gravity will not cause dizziness as long as the radius is at least 500m, and the rotation rate no more than once per minute. If the rotation radius is bigger, and the rotation rate slower, people’s living conditions won’t be negatively affected. In most cases, the space colonies of the Universal Century have adopted an artificial gravity of around 1G, the same as that experienced on Earth.
Most space colonies of the Universal Century are of the open type, with one major exception. Side 3, or Munzo, the colony cluster which later became the Principality of Zeon, adopted a unique “closed-type” colony. The Sides are numbered according to the order in which they were constructed, with the construction of Sides 1 and 2 beginning at the Lagrange points L4 and L5. However, because they required high-level technologies such as transparent windows and huge mirrors, their construction process was troubled. Accidents were frequent, and the project was greatly delayed. It was widely reported that, at this rate, the entire program would come to a standstill. At this point, the closed-type colony was proposed in order to quickly realize the goal of space emigration using more practical technology. The average closed-type colony had a length of 36.0 km and cylinder diameter of 6.41 km, just like the open type. Its electricity requirements would be supplied by the solar power plants floating around it. Because its technology was simpler than that of the open type, the closed type was also more affordable and could be built in a shorter period of time. Furthermore, since it didn’t require window sections for letting in sunlight, its land area was greater than that of the open type. By simple mathematics, it could accommodate twice as many people. Sharing a colony with lower construction costs among a larger number of people also served to reduce the economic burden on the space emigrants. For people who wanted to live in space as quickly and cheaply as possible, Munzo’s colonies initially seemed ideal. However, the closed type definitely had its drawbacks in terms of living comforts. For instance, when looking up from the ground inside the colony, the sky would be the bluish grey of a cloudy day due to the color of the land surface on the other side. For first-generation colonists who knew what life was like on Earth, these closed-type colonies were not so pleasant. As a result, once the technological challenges of the open type were overcome and people felt more prosperous, the open type design was adopted for all the colonies from Side 4 onwards. A unique case was the Sweetwater colony at Side 3, which was composed of a closed type fused with an open type. The design was only used once, as it proved unstable, and was simply a means for the Federation to contain Zeon refugees. Sweetwater Colony features prominently in the UC motion picture Char's Counterattack as a Neo Zeon base.
The first 50 years of the Universal Century were spent building the various colonies and placing them at the Lagrangian points, as well as colonizing the moon. By UC 0050 9 billion of the 11 billion people in the Federation live in space colonies or on the moon. In UC 0051 the Federation froze plans for additional colony development, and in UC 0084 reorganized the remaining Sides into different Lagrangian Points. With the re-organization of the Sides completed, the Federation announced that the status quo would be maintained. In the latter half of the Second Universal Century the construction of new colonies was restarted.
Some colonies were also maintained in orbit around Jupiter, as part of the Jupiter Energy Fleet's Helium-3 mining operation. These colonies were also of the O'Neill Island 3 type. (Mobile Suit Gundam - V Gundam)
FC space colonies are created as artistic representation of the culture of the sponsor nation, rather than being based on proposed real-world colony designs. For example, Neo Japan is made of four modules in the shape of the four main islands of Japan, Neo France is supported on a bouquet of roses, and Neo America is a five-point star with replicas of notable American landmarks on the surface. (G Gundam)
After ColonyThe colonies in the After Colony Timeline (Gundam Wing/Endless Waltz) are generally based on the Stanford "Island 2" type layout, and are also located in gravitationally stable areas around the Earth. Colonies in the A.C. Timeline are identified primarily by Lagrange point, although travel time between colonies (even to L3) appears trivial.
The first colony of the A.C. timeline was completed in A.C. 001, and colonial development continued peacefully until A.C. 040, when the fighting on earth spread to the colonies, many of which were uncompleted. Several of these uncompleted colonies were damaged by the resulting war. Colony funding was reduced to a trickle in A.C. 060, and disputes over the theft of materials in A.C. 070 prompted the Middle Eastern nations to step in as mediators for other nations, and to help with the colonial construction, they also began mining the asteroids. By A.C. 102 Colony L1 was completed, and 15% of the Earth's population moved to the Orbital Village at L1. The rest of the colonies were completed soon thereafter, resulting in mass emigration to space. By A.C. 195, 90% of the Earth Spheres population lived in the colonies with the remaining "ruling elite" residing on the planet. (Gundam Wing/Endless Waltz)
Main article: After War Space colonies in the After War timeline (and those dropped on Earth at the end of the 7th Space War) are identical to the O'Neill "Island 3" type colony cylinders seen in the Universal Century timeline. (Gundam X)
Main article: Correct Century As of now the only Gundam calendar timeframe not to have Space Colonies. Most of CC's space colonies, except those on the moon, whose population eventually became known as the Moonrace, were destroyed long ago when the Moonlight Butterfly destroyed all technological remnants. The remainder left for interstellar space.
For a list of known colonies in the Cosmic Era see Cosmic Era locations.A small number of colonies in the Cosmic Era are designed on the O'Neill Island 3 design (such as Heliopolis at L3) or the Bernal Island 1 (like Mendel at L4), however, the most common space colonies are titanic, thirty-kilometer long hourglass shaped colonies called PLANTs (Productive Location Ally on Nexus Technology), each of which has a population in excess of 2,000,000 Coordinators (virtually no Naturals live in the PLANTs). The PLANTs are arranged into "cities" named after the months of the year and located at and around L5. Each city has a particular group of scientific specialties (for example, Martius City specializes in aerospace technology and shipbuilding). Sometime after the first war, PLANT dropped the "month" names in favor of names that clearly state the purpose of the colony although this applies only to new colonies - for example, the Minerva was constructed at the Armory One PLANT.
Most Natural-occupied space colonies (the ones built on traditional designs) were destroyed early in the First Alliance-PLANT War by ZAFT forces, and the primary moonbase of the Earth Alliance was destroyed by the G.E.N.E.S.I.S. laser at the end of the war, so virtually all of the humans living in space as of Cosmic Era 73 are Coordinators. This had disastrous consequences for the human race when the remains of the destroyed space colony Junius Seven (250,000 dead) were dropped on the Earth with the intent of causing the extinction of all Naturals (and subsequently, as the fertility of Coordinators drops off sharply with the third and subsequent generations, the extinction of the entire human race). (Gundam SEED/Gundam SEED Destiny)Bernal Sphere-type colony connected to a solar power collection satellite as the home to a Supersoldier developmental facility and a Union's colony. By 2312, another colony is created from beyond the asteroid belt after the Earth Sphere Federation was found.
Other than the main purposes the colonies are built for, the A-laws under ESF sends rebels, especially Katharon members, to work under high gravity deep within the colony. In episode 8 of the second season, it hints the A-laws tend to send rebels to space colonies.
There is evidence some colonies are built for many years but forbidden by a treaty drafted during the Solar Conflict.
O'Neill-type colonies are occasionally simulated for Gunpla Battle matches. Given the expanded nature of Gundam fandom in this world, other types from other timelines are likely to be possible as well.
In the dimension of Arian, at least part of the country(containing the royal palace) is shown to be inside a real O'Neill colony.
In addition to Space Colonies using a variation on the O'Neill Cylinder design, Mars is also terraformed and colonized. It is unknown if any other planetary bodies have been colonized in this manner.
The average space colony, no matter which universe it may reside in, has a set of dimension that are measured in miles or kilometers, which easily makes the space colonies the largest kinetic weapons ever used, and it is not uncommon to see space-born armies (like the Principality of Zeon) capturing or commandeering the colonies to drop them on the Earth.
A colony drop of any sort has massive consequences for the earth, usually drastic changes in climate and weather, and the loss of land due to the impact. Because of the tremendous damage caused by colony drops, any type of drop operation is usually viewed as the use of a weapon of mass destruction.
- Operation British: In January, U.C. 0079, Principality of Zeon forces capture a depopulated cylinder and attempt to drop it on Jaburo, the Earth Federation's subterranean headquarters. The Federation intervenes, and the colony's course is altered, resulting in 16% of Australia's land mass to be destroyed, including Sydney.
- Operation Stardust: In November U.C. 0083, the Delaz Fleet captures two colony cylinders, forcing one off course. Originally thought to be targeted at the moon, the cylinder was reprogrammed to fall on the Earth. An attempt to destroy the cylinder with the Federation's Solar System II failed, and the colony landed in the American Midwest.
- Operation Apollo: On 24 August U.C. 0087, the Titans attempted a colony drop on the lunar city Von Braun. The drop was unsuccessful after AEUG forces intervene.
- Haman Karn's Neo Zeon forces drop a colony on Dublin, Ireland, on 31 October U.C. 0088 as an attempt to kill civilians to demonstrate Axis Zeon's power. While successful, the AEUG and Karaba forces are able to rescue some of the refugees before the impact.
- Char Aznable's Neo Zeon drops the asteroid 5th Luna on to Lhasa, Tibet on 3 March U.C. 0093. An attempt by the group to drop the mining colony Axis fails after the Neo Zeon are intercepted by Londo Bell forces.
- AC Early 195
- Operation Meteor: The original Operation Meteor called for many colonies to be dropped in order to create chaos on Earth for the five Gundams to take advantage of; however the orders to drop were ignored by the scientists who were charged with the construction of the Gundams, as they believed the Gundams alone to be enough and that they wouldn't have to commit mass murder.
- AC December 195
- Eve Wars: The colony-sized space battleship Libra, after losing its primary beam cannon due to enemy action, was ordered to collide with the earth. Swift action undertaken by the Gundam pilots on behalf of Earth eliminated Libra in the upper atmosphere.
- AC 196-197
- Operation Meteor: Dekim Barton's plan's involve dropping the 13-mile wide colony X-18999 onto the earth, and seizing control of the Earth Sphere Unified Nation. Swift action undertaken by the Preventers and the Gundam pilots; Heero Yuy, Duo Maxwell, and Trowa Barton were able to foil the plan before it could come to fruition.
- The 7th Space War results in the largest colony drop of the whole Gundam franchise, as the devastation caused by the drop spares less than 1% of the Earth's total population.
- The remains of the P.L.A.N.T. colony Junius Seven are seized by an ultra-radical ZAFT unit loyal to Patrick Zala, with plans to drop it onto the Earth. Upon hearing of the plan, ZAFT chairman Gilbert Durandal sends the Minerva to stop them. At the same time, a strike team led by Dearka Elsman and Yzak Joule executes an EVA to plant a set of drills to plant charges with the intent of shattering the remains into smaller pieces. The strike team was ambushed by the radicals, and were ultimately defeated by the Joule Team, and forces from the Minerva, led by Athrun Zala. However, the ambush was successful enough that the colony was only split into 2 pieces, forcing the Minerva to descend into the atmosphere to fire its Tannhauser heavy positron cannon to break up the colony as much as possible before the ship had to start proper reentry procedures. The Minerva succeeded in reducing the size of the fragments, but many pieces impacted the earth causing the destruction of many areas, including Rome, what appears to be Shanghai, and other metropolitan areas. It is said that the Junk Guild and Serpent Tail used the super weapon GENESIS Alpha in an attempt to destroy the colony, but sabotage nearly caused the weapon to strike the Earth instead.
- In a nod to the Universal Century, the east coast of Australia is shown to have a huge crater matching the one from U.C.'s Operation British, though the actual date and circumstances that caused it are unknown.
- In the 30th Gundam Perfect Mission short, a colony drop is stopped by the combined might of the Gundam X, Wing Gundam Zero and Wing Zero Custom.
Notes and Trivia
- The dropping of Landing Castles in Aldnoah.Zero is similar to the Colony Drops; like the Colony Drops, the Landing Castles were sent by the space faction to crash onto Earth.
- An explanation of "Sides" in the Universal Century Gundam universe
- An explanation of Colonies in the After Colony Gundam Universe
- An explanation of Open-type Colony Cylinders
- An explanation of Closed-type Colony Cylinders
- A map of the Sides for the Universal Century
- Detailed timeline of the Universal Century