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Artificial Gravity: A New Spin on an Old Idea
Space.com ^ | 25 November 2004 | Leonard David

Posted on 11/27/2004 1:52:08 PM PST by demlosers

Keeping an astronaut crew in tip-top shape during lengthy treks to and from distant Mars may demand portable gravity.

There’s need for long-duration space travelers to counter such debilitating effects as muscle atrophy, bone loss, cardiovascular deconditioning and balance disorders -- effects seen in humans as they cope with stints in microgravity.

Over the decades, artificial gravity research has been an on-again, off-again proposition. But in the last few years, and propelled by NASA’s new Moon, Mars and beyond exploration mandate, artificial gravity studies are now being developed, this time with a new spin.

Search for the universal antidote

"It’s an idea whose time has come around and around and around," explained Laurence Young, the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Young is also a professor of health sciences and technology and has long studied the role that artificial gravity might play to keep humans from weakening while slipping through interplanetary space.

"For the first time since I began working on this in the 1960s, I think it is being taken seriously. We have a critical mass of really good people working on it…and support in Washington, D.C.," Young said.

Young told SPACE.com that in the past, as space life scientists began to realize there were astronaut health issues, NASA started looking for quick, individual solutions. Tread mills, in-flight exercise, drugs -- all these and other remedies were flown to look at treating one body system at a time.

Meanwhile, Russian specialists studying their cadre of cosmonauts that had spent far longer time in Earth orbit were pointing out that the medical issues being encountered would not be easy to solve.

Starting with the Shuttle/Mir program that ran from 1995 into 1998, Young said, the search for a "universal antidote" began to move up the priority ladder.

G-whiz image

One issue that has worked against artificial gravity advocates in the past has been the vision of a huge, rotating spacecraft that gives its inhabitants a one-gravity condition like here on Earth. And movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey helped cement that "G-whiz" image into the space psyche. But large meant expensive, and also gave engineers design worries, Young related.

In recent years, the idea has started to emerge that a short radius centrifuge contained within a spacecraft may be far more attractive. "You go into it for a workout. You get your G-tolerance buildup for a certain period of time, daily or a few times a week. That started to sound attractive to the engineers," Young said.

Nevertheless, in taking this approach, there are still issues to be reckoned with.

Support by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) in Houston, Texas is allowing Young, MIT colleague Thomas Jarchow, and others to delve into short-radius centrifugation of individuals and potential side effects -- such as motion sickness, interference with cognitive and motor function caused by head movements while rotating at 180 degrees a second.

Moreover, research is also needed to assess whether or not short radius centrifuge workouts produce the needed effects on bone, muscle and fluids in the body necessary to help curb space deconditioning.

Given that it has become legitimate to start talking about a no-nonsense three-year long humans-to-Mars effort, Young said, suddenly NASA and a lot of university researchers are confronting key artificial gravity-related questions, and the need to come up with answers fairly soon.

International artificial gravity project

A major undertaking in artificial gravity research is being prepared at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston, overseen by NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Starting next year at UTMB, a corps of individuals will partake in bed rest studies that reproduce the effects of weightlessness, with half that group also rotated once a day on a centrifuge.

The new centrifuge has been built for NASA by Wyle Laboratories, headquartered in El Segundo, California, for use in studying the effects of artificial gravity as a countermeasure to the negative effects of long-term microgravity on the human body. That newly-built centrifuge has recently been installed at UTMB. "It’s a really beautiful device," Young said.

Young is co-investigator for the work, teamed with William Paloski, principal scientist, in the Human Adaptation and Countermeasures Office at the NASA Johnson Space Center.

The NASA-sponsored research is divided into two phases. The first phase is using the short radius centrifuge -- which has a radius of 10 feet (three meters) radius to support NASA's Artificial Gravity Pilot Study. A second phase will include significant enhancements to the centrifuge design to provide support for a multinational artificial gravity project that would involve Germany and Russia, Young added.

The Artificial Gravity Project Pilot Study involves test subjects being placed in a six degree head-down bed-rest position which simulates the effects of microgravity on a human body. The test subjects are then positioned in the short radius centrifuge and subjected up to 2.5 Gs at their feet to simulate a gravity environment.

"As far as I’m concerned," Young concluded, "the purpose of all these studies is not to show how to use artificial gravity. Rather, it is to determine whether or not artificial gravity is an acceptable solution."

Of mice and microgravity

Carrying out artificial gravity experiments in space would be ideal, particularly doing them onboard the International Space Station. Discussions are underway in this regard, but have not yet been given a go-ahead.

In the meantime, enter the Mars Gravity Biosatellite Program. The venture is a highly student-driven initiative, combining the talents of three leading universities: MIT (lead group), the University of Washington in Seattle, and the University of Queensland, Australia.

The Mars Gravity Biosatellite Program is a mission to study the effects of Martian gravity on mammals. Data gleaned from the orbiting spacecraft would contribute to fundamental space biology, with the intent to advance the human exploration of space.

"One of the big questions is what level of artificial gravity would you need going to Mars," said Paul Wooster, program manager for the project, as well as research scientist in MIT’s Space Systems Laboratory.

Funding: tough assignment

Wooster said the Mars Gravity Biosatellite would carry 15 mice into space, spin them up to create artificial gravity. To generate artificial gravity for the animals on board, the satellite will spin rapidly, making roughly one rotation every two seconds (34 revolutions per minute). This inward acceleration will simulate the force of gravity on the Martian surface - roughly one-third that of Earth.

The specimens would then return to Earth under parachute after five weeks of travel. "We what to see what effects can be found in their bones, muscles, and vestibular system," Wooster told SPACE.com.

While progress on designing the biosatellite has been steady, finding the needed money to complete the estimated $30 million project has been a tough assignment.

So far, about $1 million has been raised. Thanks to advisors and industry support -- and an anonymous donor willing to cover about half the cost of the payload’s booster -- the work continues. Over 300 students have taken part in the endeavor since it began in August 2001, Wooster said. "If we had the money on the table today, we could launch in 2008."

"It is really rewarding and worthwhile. The students are learning a tremendous amount, a lot more by building real prototype hardware and then testing that hardware. That’s better than sitting in a classroom just calculating some things," Wooster concluded.


TOPICS: News/Current Events; Technical
KEYWORDS: science; space

The use of artificial gravity for long duration space missions is regaining serious investigation in laboratories around the world. Shown here is experimental work at MIT's Man Vehicle Laboratory. Image Credit: MIT Man Vehicle Laboratory
1 posted on 11/27/2004 1:52:08 PM PST by demlosers
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To: demlosers

BTTT


2 posted on 11/27/2004 1:56:06 PM PST by Fiddlstix (This Tagline for sale. (Presented by TagLines R US))
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To: demlosers

Uggg...makes me dizzy just looking at the photo.


3 posted on 11/27/2004 2:03:31 PM PST by FReepaholic (Proud FReeper since 1998. Proud monthly donor.)
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To: tscislaw

Any chance on just getting super dense material form somehwere and putting that at the core of a space station to stimulate gravity effects?

It should work theoretically but where can we buy that stuff?


4 posted on 11/27/2004 2:05:35 PM PST by BookaT (My Cat's Breath smells like Cat Food!)
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To: BookaT
Any chance on just getting super dense material form somehwere ....

Try DU.

5 posted on 11/27/2004 2:08:12 PM PST by OSHA (Anything not forbidden is mandatory.)
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To: BookaT

A super dense material would be super massive. If it were created in orbit somehow, that wouldn't necessarily be a problem. But if it had to be lifted into orbit, enough mass to create useful gravity would be too expensive to put up there.


6 posted on 11/27/2004 2:11:01 PM PST by Stirner
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To: BookaT
Any chance on just getting super dense material form somehwere and putting that at the core of a space station to stimulate gravity effects?

Sure...but you'd have to have as much as a planet weighs in order to generate one G of gravity from it. Now imagine trying to boost that mass into space...

7 posted on 11/27/2004 2:13:35 PM PST by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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To: BookaT
Any chance on just getting super dense material from somehwere

The minorities in the Senate and House.

8 posted on 11/27/2004 2:14:00 PM PST by beyond the sea (ab9usa4uandme)
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To: demlosers
Who would have ever thought something like artificial gravity would be necessary for long term space inhabitation?


9 posted on 11/27/2004 2:14:38 PM PST by Gumption
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To: Stirner

I read about one idea involving the use of superstrong electromagnetic currents run through a ship's hull to simulate Earth gravity. Any other ideas? Of course, we could just ask the Minbari...


10 posted on 11/27/2004 2:14:39 PM PST by WestVirginiaRebel ("Nature abhors a moron."-H.L. Mencken)
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To: Stirner

Wouldn't Starr Jones take a free Space trip? It could be a sweeps week special.


11 posted on 11/27/2004 2:15:04 PM PST by iceinject
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To: demlosers
the Mars Gravity Biosatellite would carry 15 mice into space, spin them up to create artificial gravity.
finding the needed money to complete the estimated $30 million project has been a tough assignment.

Doh.

12 posted on 11/27/2004 2:17:15 PM PST by Willie Green
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To: demlosers

A new tool in studying the role artificial gravity may play in countering the impact of long duration space travel on humans. This centrifuge design has been installed at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Image Credit: Wyle Laboratories
13 posted on 11/27/2004 2:19:46 PM PST by demlosers
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To: demlosers

Student designed and built Mars Gravity Biosatellite would study the effects of Martian gravity on mammals. The research would help evaluate long-term effects of microgravity on human space explorers. Artwork: The Mars Gravity Biosatellite Program (space.com)
14 posted on 11/27/2004 2:21:32 PM PST by demlosers
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To: demlosers; KevinDavis
"But large meant expensive, and also gave engineers design worries, Young related."

Nonsense.

They are all stuck in the 2001 Space Odyssey worldview of *indoor* gravity. That's complex.

But it's another thing entirely to spin a space-suited astronaut on the end of pole in outer-space. That's not complex. It's not heavy. It's not expensive.

It's just not indoors. The astronaut has to be suited, but we can give her 1 G of centrifugal force in outer-space.

15 posted on 11/27/2004 2:24:15 PM PST by Southack (Media Bias means that Castro won't be punished for Cuban war crimes against Black Angolans in Africa)
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To: demlosers
If a propulsion system could be developed that would consistently accelerate at 1g for half the trip and then decelerate at 1g for the other half of the trip, then the problem would be solved. Of course to obtain the velocity you would need, you could accelerate at 3 or 5 g's for short periods of time. They only problem on this would be finding a propulsion system and a fuel to run it.

This would work if we can come up with the fuel and the motor and some very smart computers.
16 posted on 11/27/2004 2:53:05 PM PST by U S Army EOD (John Kerry, the mother of all flip floppers.I)
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To: All

Just askin'....

How about a little less gravity here on earth?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

After many years, I have concluded that a reduction in gravity is my best chance to lose weight.

Let's go, Science!


17 posted on 11/27/2004 3:02:33 PM PST by Museum Twenty (Proudly supporting President George W. Bush - Proudly shouting "Rumsfeld '08!")
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To: Southack
Once on the way to Mars, the ship separates into two compartments, each at the end of a 2000' cable (or truss). Start spinning to simulate either Mars gravity or Earth gravity.

The cable has to be long enough to reduce the Coriolis effect, and strong enough to support the "weight"

The non-rotating center of mass between the two could contain navigation and communication equipment.

Here's a link to a 300K movie.

18 posted on 11/27/2004 3:06:59 PM PST by robertpaulsen
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To: WestVirginiaRebel
"I read about one idea involving the use of superstrong electromagnetic currents run through a ship's hull to simulate Earth gravity."

And wear metal suits?

19 posted on 11/27/2004 3:12:40 PM PST by perfect stranger
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To: perfect stranger

Nah. Take lots and lots of iron supplements.


20 posted on 11/27/2004 3:43:16 PM PST by robertpaulsen
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To: robertpaulsen

That's what I thought too. LOL


21 posted on 11/27/2004 3:46:15 PM PST by perfect stranger
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To: BookaT
You just need one of these:

Food goes in, super dense dark-matter comes out.

22 posted on 11/27/2004 3:46:47 PM PST by Oblongata
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To: WestVirginiaRebel
Of course, we could just ask the Minbari...

They already gave Earth that very technology! :)
23 posted on 11/27/2004 3:49:48 PM PST by Tealc (Mail me if you want on or off my Jaffa, Kree! ping list)
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To: Southack
But it's another thing entirely to spin a space-suited astronaut on the end of pole in outer-space. That's not complex. It's not heavy. It's not expensive.

It's just not indoors. The astronaut has to be suited, but we can give her 1 G of centrifugal force in outer-space.

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!
24 posted on 11/27/2004 3:50:33 PM PST by jennyp (Latest creation/evolution news: http://crevo.bestmessageboard.com)
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To: Stirner
A super dense material would be super massive. If it were created in orbit somehow, that wouldn't necessarily be a problem. But if it had to be lifted into orbit, enough mass to create useful gravity would be too expensive to put up there.

Not to mention a) the impossibility of getting rockets that could push that mass out of Earth orbit; and b) the unfortunate tidal waves, earthquakes, and volcanoes that would result from a supermassive body moving around in low Earth orbit....

25 posted on 11/27/2004 3:56:15 PM PST by r9etb
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To: robertpaulsen
The non-rotating center of mass between the two could contain navigation and communication equipment.

No way you'd want to have a non-rotating center -- that means all sorts of moving parts, bearings, seals, and so on.

Another major problem would be attitude control. How do you point the little guy when you need to do a burn?

Probably the biggest problem would be mass balancing. You'd have to be extremely careful about that, and it'd be very difficult to manage.

26 posted on 11/27/2004 4:01:17 PM PST by r9etb
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To: r9etb
"No way you'd want to have a non-rotating center -- that means all sorts of moving parts, bearings, seals, and so on."

My bad. I meant a stable center of mass which would rotate. You should be able to do navigation and communication through that.

"Another major problem would be attitude control. How do you point the little guy when you need to do a burn?"

That's why I like cables. Stop the spin, reel in, lock the structure, then burn. Crews could meet, maybe exchange members to mix things up, trade baseball cards, whatever. Then unreel and re-rotate.

"Probably the biggest problem would be mass balancing."

True. Overboard dumps would have to be managed. But with two separate cables (one to each spacecraft), the center hub could "slide" one way or the other to remain a stable axis.

27 posted on 11/27/2004 4:18:53 PM PST by robertpaulsen
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To: demlosers

It is also helpful when the astronauts go to the restroom. Considering the most practical approach is the centrifuge idea, it is enough to make your head spin.


28 posted on 11/27/2004 4:39:56 PM PST by punster
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To: U S Army EOD
If a propulsion system could be developed that would consistently accelerate at 1g for half the trip and then decelerate at 1g for the other half of the trip, then the problem would be solved. Of course to obtain the velocity you would need, you could accelerate at 3 or 5 g's for short periods of time. They only problem on this would be finding a propulsion system and a fuel to run it.

Actually, at a continuous acceleration of 1G, you can build up some quite amazing speeds really quickly.

For example, accelerating at 1G (9.81 meters/second) for a period of one day (86400 seconds) will give you a velocity of nearly 850 kilometers per second. During this time, you will travel over 36.5 million kilometers.

A two-day trip, therefore, accelerating until halfway, and decelerating thereafter, would take you more than 73 million kilometers from your starting point. A four-day trip would cover nearly 300 million kilometers, or more than the typical length of a trip to Mars.

Basically, using a continuous acceleration/deceleration of 1G will enable you to get to anywhere in the Solar System in less than a month.

29 posted on 11/27/2004 4:43:22 PM PST by derlauerer (The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility. And vice-versa.)
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To: derlauerer
Ah, ignoring the engineering obsticals whose solutions are currently inconceivable, I think you forgot something more fundamental called "relativity".

Hint, for the observer, you were much too optimistic but for the passenger, the news is much better than you wrote.

30 posted on 11/27/2004 5:36:52 PM PST by nevergiveup (We CAN do it!)
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To: demlosers
One issue that has worked against artificial gravity advocates in the past has been the vision of a huge, rotating spacecraft that gives its inhabitants a one-gravity condition like here on Earth. And movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey helped cement that "G-whiz" image into the space psyche. But large meant expensive, and also gave engineers design worries, Young related.

It's Kubrick's fault. If it isn't Bush or Walmart, it's Kubrick.

In recent years, the idea has started to emerge that a short radius centrifuge contained within a spacecraft may be far more attractive. "You go into it for a workout. You get your G-tolerance buildup for a certain period of time, daily or a few times a week. That started to sound attractive to the engineers," Young said.

But wait a minute. There was a much smaller centrifuge inside the Discovery spaceship in 2001. Maybe it isn't Kubrick's fault after all.

For a movie that started production in 1964, 2001 is an amazing work.

31 posted on 11/27/2004 5:47:42 PM PST by Moonman62 (Federal Creed: If it moves tax it. If it keeps moving regulate it. If it stops moving subsidize it.)
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To: Oberon
Sure...but you'd have to have as much as a planet weighs in order to generate one G of gravity from it. Now imagine trying to boost that mass into space...

Not completely. A denser than Earth substance would allow one to get closer to the gravitational center so that less mass would be required to obtain 1 g. As it happens if one could stand on the core of the Earth one would experience 1 g. (The massive core still being to much to launch.)

32 posted on 11/27/2004 6:03:46 PM PST by Poincare
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To: Poincare
A denser than Earth substance would allow one to get closer to the gravitational center so that less mass would be required to obtain 1 g. As it happens if one could stand on the core of the Earth one would experience 1 g. (The massive core still being to much to launch.)

Read the fine print, dude...I didn't write "as much as the Earth weighs," I wrote "as much as a planet weighs." Even accounting for a high-density object permitting closer proximity, you'd still have at least a Mercury's worth of mass to lift off the ground.

33 posted on 11/27/2004 6:35:20 PM PST by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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To: Oberon; BookaT

What is your problem? Dude?

The bottom line is that the denser the mass, the less that is needed. BookaT mentioned the idea of a super dense mass. Such things are in our universe, just not on Earth in any quantity. If there were a way to assemble a mass of, say, concentrated neutrons as found in a neutron star, it would merit consideration. If there were a way.


34 posted on 11/27/2004 6:48:04 PM PST by Poincare
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To: Poincare
What is your problem? Dude?

My problem is a fellow who picks nits with others' statements, yet who expects those same others to accept his own technically erroneous statements without criticism.

If you see anyone like that, you let 'em know, okay?

35 posted on 11/27/2004 6:59:07 PM PST by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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To: Gumption
Before Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke conceived of an orbiting rotating space station, Wernher Von Braun, Willy Ley, and Chesley Bonestell had already developed the idea in Colliers Magazine in March of 1954 .


36 posted on 11/27/2004 7:09:15 PM PST by FreedomCalls (It's the "Statue of Liberty," not the "Statue of Security.")
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To: Gumption
And here's a sketch that Wernher Von Braun presented to the US Army in 1946:


37 posted on 11/27/2004 7:10:32 PM PST by FreedomCalls (It's the "Statue of Liberty," not the "Statue of Security.")
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To: Oberon
but you'd have to have as much as a planet weighs in order to generate one G of gravity from it.

So I was kind to say "not completely". Your statement above (post 7) is beyond "nit-picking", it confounds mass and weight, and g (acceleration at Earth surface) and G (gravitational constant), and it does not address BookaT's proposition.

Get a mirror.

38 posted on 11/27/2004 7:12:14 PM PST by Poincare
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To: Poincare
I see this is the sort of discussion one cannot win. In fact, participating even this far makes me something of a schlemiel.

[sigh]

39 posted on 11/27/2004 7:18:03 PM PST by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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To: derlauerer

Then lets do it.


40 posted on 11/27/2004 9:02:55 PM PST by U S Army EOD (John Kerry, the mother of all flip floppers.I)
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To: nevergiveup
Ah, ignoring the engineering obstacles whose solutions are currently inconceivable, I think you forgot something more fundamental called "relativity".

Actually, I didn't. The velocity of light in a vacuum is approximately 3 X 108 meters per second, or 300,000 kilometers per second. Ignoring relativistic effects, it would take just under 354 days to reach that velocity at an acceleration of 1G.

Relativistic effects don't become significant until one reaches a velocity of about 70% of the speed of light. Even accelerating at 1G for a period of two weeks (just over 1,200,000 seconds) will achieve a velocity of less than 12,000,000 meters per second, which is only (!) about 4% of the speed of light. Clocks on board such a spaceship might run a few seconds slow, but that would be about all.

As to the engineering obstacles, I did indeed deliberately ignore them. To take just the most obvious one, the energy required to continuously accelerate a useful spaceship (massing, say, 1,000 metric tons) at 1G for a period of only one day (86,400 seconds) would be enormous (kinetic energy, at a velocity of 850 kilometers per second, would amount to about 3.6 X 1017 joules, or the entire output of a 1-gigawatt generating station running continuously for nearly 11 and a half years - and that's assuming 100% efficiency). I was pointing out only that continuous acceleration removes the problem of supplying artificial gravity.

However, I think the term "inconceivable" is a bit too strong: "Impossible at our current level of technology" would be more accurate.

41 posted on 11/28/2004 10:10:53 AM PST by derlauerer (The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility. And vice-versa.)
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To: BookaT
Any chance on just getting super dense material form somehwere and putting that at the core of a space station to stimulate gravity effects? M

just a small piece of a black hole, should just about do it. ; ) Maybe Disney has some left over.

42 posted on 11/28/2004 10:18:10 AM PST by D Rider
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To: demlosers

43 posted on 11/28/2004 10:18:41 AM PST by Liberal Classic (No better friend, no worse enemy. Semper Fi.)
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To: Tealc
Of course, we could just ask the Minbari...

Has anyone ever noticed that with a single letter substitution that Minbari becomes Minibar.

44 posted on 11/28/2004 10:22:31 AM PST by D Rider
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To: derlauerer

There would have to be a gigantic reason for building a manned ship that would accelerate at 1 gee for even an hour. An economic justification. Science itself will have to be content with accelerating very small robot ships to that extent, if even that.


45 posted on 11/28/2004 10:24:08 AM PST by RightWhale (Destroy the dark; restore the light)
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To: OSHA

"Any chance on just getting super dense material form somehwere ....

Try DU."

I hope no one misses that!


46 posted on 11/28/2004 12:12:20 PM PST by Arthur Wildfire! March (The most fuel efficient vehicle in history: the "Hillary Mobile", a broomstick fueled by ugliness.)
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To: Poincare

I'm no rocket scientist, so this is just a low-informed stab at the issue. Dense mass seems to me to be the expensive way to solve the problem. We've all seen artificial gravity from spinning. Motion is the cheaper solution, IMHO. You could combine the two, but in the end, it should depend more on motion and less on mass. Enough energy for that motion is practically free in space, with unfiltered sunlight for solar collecters.


47 posted on 11/28/2004 12:19:30 PM PST by Arthur Wildfire! March (The most fuel efficient vehicle in history: the "Hillary Mobile", a broomstick fueled by ugliness.)
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To: Arthur Wildfire! March
You are correct. We have the ability to simulate gravity's effect by using spinning at reasonable cost. As of yet we have no suitable "dense matter" that we could use and the techiques of handling and using it would be engineering problems indeed.

It is those problems that I find most interesting. The suggestion of dense matter raises the opportunity for thought experiments--the most fun part of physics, IMHO. Back-of-envelope calcs show that a piece of "dense matter" at a distance of 5 meters would need to be (about) 1/2,000,000,000,000 the mass of the Earth to effect 1 g. Getting closer than say 3 meters would be very dangerous.

48 posted on 11/29/2004 8:43:18 AM PST by Poincare
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To: derlauerer
oh, sorry about the speed, my old eyes readmis it and saw 850 megameters.

With regard to engineering, I still think inconceivable is better since no one can conceive of a way to build the thing.

Of course the reason it is unconceivable is because our current undertanding of physics makes this "virtually" impossible. Therefore what we need is an improbability drive.

49 posted on 12/03/2004 9:19:20 AM PST by nevergiveup (We CAN do it!)
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