Scope of the Book
This book explores human expansion into space in terms of the history of the idea, the motivations from and a social and economic perspective, and progress and prospects for its realization. The technical details of how to do it fall more properly under engineering, and are discussed in the Space Transport and Engineering Methods Wikibook.
Old introduction to be merged:
This book attempts to predict and/or create a roadmap to the colonization of outer space, an important step in the continuing existence and progress of the human race. A topic such as this is beyond broad - encompassing subjects from Engineering and Chemistry to Social Systems and Political Models. Even if people believe that attention is better focused on problems here on Earth, explicitly considering the alternative of colonizing outer space, this interesting thought-experiment may enlighten and enliven debate by focusing attention on issues of a global scale, such as the environment, global politics and the nature of progress. The aim of this book is to consolidate much of the knowledge necessary to create a self-sustaining colony in outer space, whether planet/moon-based or free-falling habitats.
Some of the terminology used in the book may be unfamiliar to the general reader, or used with a different or more specific meaning. New terms are generally introduced with Boldface Capitals in the text, but we will cover a few of them here:
Outer Space in the sense of the book's title refers to the Universe outside of the Earth's atmosphere. As a term it is somewhat redundant and archaic. It implicitly asks what does "inner space" refer to? The term comes from before the dawn of the Space Age (before 1958 CE) to emphasize that space was this other place we had not visited yet, alien and unknown. As the past 500 years of science and photographs from orbit show, the Earth is actually in space, moving in orbit about the Sun like the other planets. It is merely our human perspective that makes us treat space as someplace other than where we are. This similar to saying the Sun rises and sets every day. It merely appears from our point of view to do that. What really happens is the Earth rotates and we go along for the ride. In the remainder of the book we will usually reduce the phrase "outer space" to simply "space".
Colony in the sense of the book title refers to a set of humans in a given location which are able to satisfy some of their own needs locally and have some degree of self-direction. Thus a base on the Moon which gets all its supplies from Earth would not be a colony. The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which is operated by the US government, is not a colony either, as the residents do not set policy and direction for what is done there. Land claims are not a necessary feature of a colony. The main reasons are (1) the Outer Space Treaty of of 1967 states that space is not subject to such claims, and (2) human artifacts in orbit do not occupy land. So a sufficiently large habitat in orbit, with greenhouses to produce it's own food and an internal governing body would be a colony, even without land, and even if owned by a terrestrial nation-state.
Connections to Other Sources
This is a book in its initial stages of creation. Contributors are invited to establish their own chapters or to edit material in existing chapters. Please have a look at the related Wikipedia pages for a guide to relevant topics.