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Zero “g” is fun – for a while. April 11, 2012

Posted by Mark Flavin in Technology.
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Watching the astronauts float around the ISS is intriguing. It looks like fun, and everyone who has been in space says it is. The only problem is the long term affects micro gravity has on the human body. Now imagine floating around for six months on your way to Mars. That’s where fun ends and pain begins. Once on the surface you are back in a gravity environment which takes time to re-adapt. This is precious time you could be exploring at 100% capacity, not slugging along dragging your butt to the next task. Months of zero g leads to a host of issues like loss of calcium in the bones and other maladies, some which are reversible, others are not. This is in spite of rigorousness exercise on state of the art space workout equipment on board the station.

NASA is looking at a very old artificial gravity concept. This idea dates back to at least the 1950’s.  The current project is called Nautilus-X or AG ISS, a rotating torus that will be attached to the ISS to test the concept of rotating the cabin to produce a partial gravity environment for sleep & work. It makes a lot of sense and is one possible answer to improved health on long duration space flights. They are also considering a spacecraft based on this same concept.

Now they are finally coming around to the rotating space stations like the marvelous one in the movie 2001 a Space Odyssey. (Well sort of) Aesthetically the ISS is a kludge by any standard. It looks like a train wreck with gym equipment stuck to it and inside; humans bouncing off the walls in a micro-gravity environment. Let’s hope the torus idea catches on and we give our astronauts a healthier and safer way to explore the solar system.

(See NASA Technology applications paper)