The Stanford Torus or "wheel" is often regarded as the quintessential design template for orbiting space stations in that it provides microgravity via centrifugal rotation. That is, it spins and people stick to the floor.
While it's been popularized in comic books, science fiction novels, and film, the design has grounding in real-world physics. The concept was developed at Stanford University based on theories rocket engineers Wernher von Braun and Herman Potočnik.
|This scene is actually from a centrifuge area on the spaceship Discovery One, but the concept is the same.|
NASA took the Torus further by using the design to help the public understand how people might live in space one day. The Torus is perhaps the closest approximation to Earth-like living--that is to say extended or semi-permanent residence--for humans in space.
During the Space Race, the wheel design achieved star status as a pop culture icon of human achievement in the marathon to establish a permanent orbiting settlement.
And now, for your viewing pleasure:
Real World Torus Wheel Concepts
NASA's Torus work
Article about recovered, long-lost scenes from 2001 A Space Odyssey
Next Time: Outer Space Colonies!