The Space Review: The other 40th anniversary.
Less than three months after billions of people were transfixed by “one small step” a Princeton physics professor named Gerard K. O’Neill walked into a classroom with less than a dozen undergraduates and asked a seemingly simple question: “Is the surface of a planet really the right place for an expanding technological civilization?” This event passed with so little notice that nobody I contacted can figure out the precise day to celebrate the anniversary. The best we know for sure is that it happened before October 14th, 1969, probably during the first week of October. And yet, this unnoted moment would change the world.
Others would follow varying paths to similar conclusions as Dr. O’Neill and his class. But speaking quietly and articulately, from a position of great authority, Gerry O’Neill created a movement that would come to be called NewSpace. He wrote The High Frontier, a bestseller translated into many languages; started the Space Studies Institute and the influential Space Manufacturing conferences; appeared on television before an audience of millions; and personally recruited all three of the founders of the Space Frontier Foundation, an organization of people dedicated to using the nearly unlimited resources of our solar system to both protect Earth’s fragile biosphere and create a freer and more prosperous life for each generation.
See also chapter 6 of Engines of Creation and chapter 12 of Nanofuture.