Nova York

One of the more unusual near-weightless habitats is Nova York, the main city on Metis, a large nickel-iron and silicate asteroid located in the main belt. Nova York, the third largest habitat in the main belt, is a thriving metropolis of 500,000, with the main portion of the city located in a spherical cavern approximately four kilometers in diameter, the top of which is two hundred meters beneath the asteroid’s surface. Lit during the day by a series of huge light tubes in the outer walls, at night the lights of the buildings cause the surface of this sphere to resemble an enormous geode. The habitat’s basic design consists of many thousands of exceptionally tall and fragile-looking buildings that extend between one hundred and fifteen hundred meters above the surface, as well as a few buildings that stretch from one side of the cavern to the other. In Metis’s minute gravity of 1/140th of a g, up and down have little meaning, and even relatively fragile buildings are in no danger of falling down. The vast majority of the buildings, including ones more than one kilometer tall, are made from thin plastic panels over a durable supporting framework. These buildings jut out at all angles from the sphere.

Many inhabitants of Nova York move from one building to another by jumping, and a single leap can carry someone many hundreds of meters. Residents do not worry about falling—the combination of air resistance and exceedingly low gravity means that even someone falling from the top of the cavern to the bottom is in no danger of injury. In this environment, the only real meaning of up and down is that down is where you look for objects to come to rest (as long as an air current does not pick them up and blow them around).