In the series Babylon 5, we are mostly shown the small cramped rooms and corridors of the eponymous space station, very full of people and things. There are episodes like the one where they host a lot of ground troops and people have to triple or quadruple up in quarters; or the one where several priests want to give a shared religious service for lots of the aliens and "we don't have much space, but you can use the chapel". (Or the large baseball practice field, says no-one)

But when we do see inside the central area it is a vast O'Neill cylinder type structure with lots of fields.

I guess the out-of-universe answer they don't use it much is because the special effects at the time couldn't handle it. But is there an in-universe reason they don't make a lot more use of this space? The map in this question calls them hydroponics gardens, so are they perhaps all watery paddy fields it wouldn't be practical to wander around in?

I certainly wouldn't like living in most of the rooms & corridors, but the interior looks like it'd be amazing and gorgeous to be inside.

This answer to a different question shows a good picture and has quotes saying

In a piece originally written on GEnie and archived on the excellent Lurker's Guide website, J. Michael Straczynski describes the station as being;

"...patterned physically after the work of such scientists as Gerard K. O'Neill"

with the central core of the station containing a

"hollow-world look, with fields and hydroponic gardens along the 360-degree circular section (which is about a half-mile, or a mile across)...This area is known as the Garden."


2 Answers 2


There's a few limits involved in designing a space station that simulates gravity by rotation.

  • Radius: as you get closer to the centre of rotation, the centrifugal force (the reactive force from pushing against the deck) will decrease. If you have a small enough tube or cylinder, there will be noticeable differences in gravity as you move up or down through various decks.
  • Coriolis effect: at fast enough rotations, you would notice the constant change in linear velocity (ever been on a roundabout), and could get quite dizzy. For comfort, rotation needs to be pretty low: about 2 rpm. This then increases the minimum radius to maintain comfortable/effective gravity.

Another factor is surface area: a quarter of a million people needs quite a bit of food, and food needs quite a bit of surface area to be grown on. If another deck of accommodation is added below the gardens/farms, this would reduce the area.

This answer to a question on B5's speed of rotation does the math. But since surface area of the gardens is proportional to the square of the radius, adding just one deck (including services and structure) could have a dramatic reduction in available surface area for growing things.

Also, the cost of building all that extra structure and services wouldn't be insignificant.

Finally, there's the psychological aspect. Humans need open/green space - it's relaxing. Living inside a bunch of corridors and small, windowless rooms for extended periods would be extremely taxing on individuals.

  • There would be few crops which need the open space, although it might be better for animals and aesthetically for many sophonts. Growing would be possible at any radial distance where there's appropriate pseudo-gravity (i.e. growing doesn't need to be on only a single level). Past that, the limitations are the available light (which is primarily limited by available power and ability to convert power to light, which are both really cost). There's also both a cost to and multiple issues with the additional mass needed to building more levels. Overall, there are a bunch of trade-offs.
    – Makyen
    Jul 2, 2022 at 5:45
  • Interesting stuff, thanks. Also, the answer you linked says the "gravitational" acceleration felt in the park is 5 m/s2, which would feel nice and light but what'd be the long term effect on human health? (and if they go back to Earth, how crushing). So that might be another reason. (On the other hand it also points out it's higher than the surface gravity of Mars, 3.7 m/s^2." And people in B5 live there without any problems (or noticeable low grav). They don't have grav plating (mentioned in another episode "Gosh, the Mimbari do") so it's something that "just works" from our POV Jul 3, 2022 at 18:31

The maps and schematics in the question you reference show at least one level of used space outside the floor of the gardens, so even if they extended the full length of the station, there would be more floor space outside the gardens than within them (and in reality, much of the station is living/working space without the gardens).

Moving all the activity to the gardens would immediately make them more crowded than the other spaces.

This also reflects most towns and cities - they have parks and green spaces available, but the industrial parks and retail areas are typically a lot more crowded than the green spaces. People visit parks to relax, but spend more of their lives in the busy areas of where they live. That doesn't seem to have changed much by 2258.

  • 1
    I suppose since they effectively live mostly "underground", they'll value a pure green space much more than we value parks, since we are at least outside a lot, good point. And I suppose we don't see all that relaxation activity in the episodes we are shown, either. Jul 3, 2022 at 18:29

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