Thursday, May 17, 2012

Round and Round She Goes...

Fictionally, writers have used the ever-questionable gravity conductors to generate and control gravitons. The coolest being Star Trek, which generated and distributed them into the hull plating. But, aside from pseudo-science experiments around gravitomagnetic torque effect that have no real scientific community confirmation and have not been duplicated, this "gravity generating" technology has not come to fruition.

So, for the purposes of this post, let's stick with concepts that are from more traditional avenues of artificial gravity. Okay, before we begin, I want to clarify that when we talk about this kind of artificial gravity, we're not talking about gravity at all.

What we're talking about is centripetal force (the counteracting of mass by a proportional rotational acceleration). Basically, spinning to give the feeling of weight to one's body. Think the spinning ride at your local amusement park but in a more effective and useful way to allow astronauts and, hopefully, space travelers the ability to function and remain healthy in space.

Studies performed and being performed indicate humans don't need a constant round-the-clock form of gravity to remain conditioned, and they don't believe humans would even need standard earth gravity either. Half earth's gravity and several hours a day could, in theory, suffice to sustain body health and prevent "deconditioning" during a space travels. (Deconditioning is the physical results of zero gravity, such as loss of bone mass and performance deterioration of the circulatory and neurological systems, among other clinical issues.)

The most popular solution scientists are exploring is centrifuge systems. The question of specific centrifuge structure to use for space travel depends on some decisions: continuous artificial gravity vs periodic artificial gravity sessions, and compartment systems or individual name a couple.

Quirky fact: Path of least resistance - in a large vessel or station sized rotational system the occupants would need to walk/move in the same direction as the rotation or dizziness and nausea could ensue. Also, depending on the size/structure, even turning your head could cause these symptoms.

I think in the short term regular "centrifuge sessions" in individual chambers is a sound and cost-effective solution. This is because those first missions will be a small professional crew only and a good testing ground for the technology.

Building too large too fast is not the way to go in space exploration. One vacuum step at a time, people. But it is exciting to jump ahead and imagine the evolution as our exploration evolves.
  1. Individual centrifuge chambers at regular daily sessions for first long distance crew missions and colonization of Mars, moons and satellites.
  2. Multi person chambers round the clock/Individual chambers at regular sessions for broader space travel with small passenger/crew mixture.
  3. Compartment-size systems round the clock for mid and large size transport vessels with large crews needing gravity in their workspaces, but not needing gravity in the payload and common areas. Also could be for larger capacity passenger vessels. Passengers situated in artificial gravity quarters and crew in artificial gravity workspaces with non-gravity areas such as cargo areas and common areas.

  4. Then we reach the vessel-size systems where all areas would have artificial gravity.
There are a million different ways centrifuge systems can be explored and executed. These are just my brainstorms on the concept. Let me know your thoughts, ideas or heck, even your disagreements. Below are a few links I used when exploring the idea. Some are older articles, but hey, the issues been around for a while with no other real solutions being presented. (artificial gravity workout system)


  1. In space, it would be far more cost effective to induce an ongoing spin to the ship rather than having some sort of chamber that would have to be started and stopped.

  2. Hey, my techie buddy! Hello!

    I don't know about that, when you factor in the radius size needed. If it's too small or too close to the center you'd either trigger an imbalance in what the body experiences or you'd lose the artificial gravitational pull all together. To build something large enough for even a single crew mission would be astronomical. But, an individual centrifuge system (small one-person scale) would be more economical and fit within a more manageable size shuttle footprint.

    But, who knows, the costs needed to keep the shuttle balanced while a centrifuge was in use might end up costing too much to: designing, testing, development and of course then the operational costs of start-up and ongoing maintenance.

  3. The issue is that more energy is required to start and stop things. Having any kind of internal device like what you're talking about would require a lot of energy consumption no matter what the size. Causing a rotation to the ship itself would require very little energy in comparison. Almost none, in fact, and it would just keep going. Or it could be a ring on the outside of the ship that had a constant spin.

  4. Very interesting post and comments. Been awhile since I've though of HOW people can walk around on the floor of a ship, much less what technology could provide gravity treatments, so to speak.

    And thanks for listing me as a blog you follow. Since I posted that sidebar on my blog I go to yours more often, and probably will our other author friends.