05 January 2012

The Space Station

A vast space station orbits the earth. It is the largest man-made structure ever built, my guide tells me as we step through the airlock from the transport ship to the check-in desk. This is an impressive fact, but I am more impressed that the station is made up entirely of shipping containers, welded together.

It's a stereotypical space station, as first envisioned decades ago by Arthur C. Clarke, and made famous in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. It resembles a spoked wheel, with a circular outer ring connected by arms to a central axis structure. All made from discarded shipping containers, which were pretty much used "as is," complete with shipping company logos and registration numbers. It looks cobbled together and unsafe, but it must be okay because there are hundreds of people inside doing whatever people do on space stations.

On this station, what the people do are buy and sell things. The people living on the station sell, and people like me who arrive on the transports buy. It's a gigantic mall, with each container being a distinct and individual store. There are also restaurants and bars, arcades, casinos - every kind of commercial enterprise is represented.

I check into my hotel, which is an office fronting dozens of small shipping containers, each comprising a single rentable room, and I spend the rest of my time going from shop to shop, buying stupid junky bits of tchotchkes and culch.