Humans Might Need Artificial Gravity for Space Travel

by Moin Uddin Ahmed Tipu

Despite the fact that floating around in space looks like a certified blast, it’s not something the human body is optimized for. In order to make these trips possible, scientists are going to have to figure out how to mimic Earth’s gravity in space.
» Subscribe to Seeker!
» Watch more Elements!
» Visit our shop at
» Sign Up for Seeker’s Newsletter!

We evolved with gravity constantly pulling on us at a rate of about 9.8 m/s2, or 1 g. Our bodies are built in a way that takes that into account. Our rigid bones can hold us up, our cardiovascular system can pump blood to and from our extremities, our vestibular system in our ears keeps us balanced, and so on. Our bodies are also good at adapting to our needs, which means when you take gravity away the body starts to change. Bones lose mineral density, hearts weaken, and the vestibular system shuts off because suddenly there is no “up” anymore. So long as the body stays in space these changes aren’t really a problem, but coming back to Earth and readapting to 1 g can be painful and disorienting.

To make the transition to Earth easier, astronauts on the ISS have to spend two and a half hours every day doing aerobic and resistive exercise. It takes a lot of valuable time and still doesn’t prevent all bodily changes, so maybe some sort of artificial gravity could be a better solution. The only practical way to recreate the effects of gravity would be by using centrifugal force, aka spinning. If you’ve ever clung for dear life to one of those whirligigs on a playground you know what I’m talking about. If astronauts could somehow be spun around that might mimic gravity enough to keep their bodies from changing too drastically. There have actually been several proposals on how to leverage centrifugal force, and each of them has its downsides.

One of them is a staple of sci-fi: a spacecraft with a gigantic rotating section. Inside the astronauts would be pushed towards the outermost wall and that would become the “floor”, so to speak, while the rest of the station would remain stationary and in microgravity. But a spacecraft like this would be really complex and expensive to build. Another design is a long spacecraft that twirls like a baton, creating Earth-like acceleration at either end. If the craft were about a kilometer long it would only need to rotate once or twice a minute, but a kilometer-long spacecraft would be about 10 times longer than the ISS and an incredible engineering feat.

#seeker #science #gravity #nasa #space

Read More:

Why does China want to build a kilometre-long spacecraft? And is it even possible?

“Thinking about the future, Harvey points to a Chinese report published in 2009 called Roadmap 2050, which is the blueprint for how China plans to become the world’s leading space-faring nation by the middle of the century. “The horizon to Chinese spaceflight is not years or decades but half-centuries,” he says.”

Artificial Gravity

“On Episode 188, Bill Paloski, former director of the Human Research Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, explores the idea of artificial gravity within a spacecraft for long-duration missions and explains how it may affect the human body from what we have learned through Earth-based studies.”

What happens to bones in space?

“On a long-duration space flight, such as those planned for missions to Mars and beyond, bone loss can be a serious impediment. This loss may not hinder astronauts while they are in orbit, but upon return to Earth, their weakened bones will be fragile and at an increased risk of fractures. At this time, it is unknown whether this bone loss will eventually reach a plateau, or whether it will continue indefinitely.”

____________________

Elements is more than just a science show. It’s your science-loving best friend, tasked with keeping you updated and interested in the compelling, innovative, and groundbreaking science that’s happening all around us. Join our passionate hosts as they help break down and present fascinating science, from quarks to quantum theory and beyond.

Seeker empowers the curious to understand the science shaping our world. We tell award-winning stories about the natural forces and groundbreaking innovations that impact our lives, our planet, and our universe.

Visit the Seeker website

Elements on Facebook

Subscribe now!

Seeker on Twitter

Seeker on Facebook

Seeker

Related Posts

Leave a Comment

29 comments

Ricardo de Zelunda January 11, 2022 - 8:21 AM

All that's needed is the ship from Passengers. It's a brilliant design.

MWall711 January 11, 2022 - 8:27 AM

Whoopsie. Not centrifugal force, but rather, centripetal force.

1 Layer Doodler January 11, 2022 - 9:44 AM

alternative title "Humans need artificial gravity for space travel, here's why"

Jope January 11, 2022 - 10:23 AM

Human are not meant to go long trips out in the vast space. However they can marionette Androids which can enact a person movement back here on Earth, linked with the appropiate time dilation feedback it might become handy in the initial exploration. How? "If the Pupet from outside Earth sends 3D data scans of it surrounds then back in the lab a person using VR can send back to the Pupet infinite sets of movement and actions as if this person were an actual Astromated."© Get it?
Anyhow, as long as Quantum physics keep coming after the mechanics of particles, there will be no artificial gravity possible.

p.s.: Spinning is not Acceleration, the Gravity Equivalence Principle is about "_Constant Acceleration_ only", does not even mention references to Inertia nor Momentum. Whoever put this out was high in acids.

Jamie Arnott January 11, 2022 - 10:30 AM

Thanks for your excellent informative video. Exactly! Other than fiat money Elon Musk and NASA, how do you propose to deal long term gravity effects in human body? Is there any amount of currency that can print for that existential fact? About centrifugal force, doesn't that make you nauseated and energy requirements to do such things prohibitive?

Garlic Breath and Farts January 11, 2022 - 10:31 AM

First I need to fix the motor on my fishing boat.

noah lamoureaux January 11, 2022 - 12:06 PM

Why Don't they just make a small magnetic room. Where they put magnets on there feet, hands and shoulders ect. Giving some g force resistance.

Astovoc Azrro January 11, 2022 - 12:58 PM

Happy birthday Julian!

Meychel Triarlions January 11, 2022 - 1:09 PM

What I still wonder about this, adding centrifuge to spacecraft will make it hard to turn for manuver. How do they expect to solve this?

ranners 69 January 11, 2022 - 1:24 PM

Gravity is bollocks. Buoyancy and density, that's all that is. Space is bollocks and nasa can't get out of low Earth orbit. Nasa go nowhere. They just talk alot about going somewhere and take billions of taxpayers money whilst going nowhere. It's all clever filming guys.

But….. Cognative dissidence.

Aditya LN January 11, 2022 - 3:52 PM

spacetoilet🤣

s10 January 11, 2022 - 4:00 PM

Magnet suits

Remart Embile January 11, 2022 - 7:46 PM

We need cryosleep technology so we dont need to waste our time traveling in space.

Not Dave January 11, 2022 - 8:18 PM

You neglected to mention gravity by thrust. As long as the spacecraft is under thrust and accelerating you get pseudo gravity in line with the axis of thrust. Build a ship like a tall building with floors perpendicular to the axis of thrust and engines that are designed for 1g or less of constant acceleration and you're golden. All you need to do then is flip the ship 180 degrees at the midpoint of your journey and you're slowing down while still getting gravity.

Not Dave January 11, 2022 - 8:28 PM

Why bother with a rotating just a section of the space ship? Build your spaceship as a big, fat cylinder and spin the whole thing around it's long axis (like an O'Neil cylinder). Much easier than trying to accomodate a spining section of an otherwise stationary spaceship.

Ian Isbell January 11, 2022 - 9:04 PM

What about a tether? Two Starships could be connected with a cable nose to nose, and spun up. Potentially, a special elevator could move up and down the tether for docking and ship to ship transit.

Karis January 11, 2022 - 9:32 PM

I'll hate it in space as much as I hate exercising.

Oracle Davis January 11, 2022 - 9:42 PM

Humans need brainwave quantum entanglement with androids whom travelling far away from Earth to work on space missions.
We are just not fit to go for space mission beyond Mars.

Callum Billington January 11, 2022 - 10:02 PM

Love to know how many generations born and living in zero G it'd take to trigger evolution… 🤔

Terry Williams January 11, 2022 - 11:42 PM

Space toilet!

BranShinoobi January 11, 2022 - 11:47 PM

I wonder. Why not just a spinning cylinder? Since well most of our current spacecrafts are more or less cylindrical shaped. Spin the whole spacecraft along its axis and it'll have the same effect as a torus with even more space to spare and even less moving parts to worry about

Arthur Zettel January 12, 2022 - 12:25 AM

Yes, Humans will need Artificial Gravity. It can be done mechanically by a spinning section of the Space Vessel. Depending on the vessels size, will also determine the diameter of the Terraring or Terratube and that dictates the rate of R.P.M.'s for Artificial Gravity.

controlfreak1963 January 12, 2022 - 1:03 AM

…and protection from radiation. Two issues that keep getting kicked down the road as we discuss space travel.

Lux Keiwoker January 12, 2022 - 1:05 AM

E= m*c^2. Put a particle accelerator into a spaceship. Generate artificial gravity. Profit

Carlos Luis Alvarez January 12, 2022 - 1:33 AM

I was expecting some new ideas….

Jared Lane January 12, 2022 - 1:36 AM

Just accelerate the ship at 9.8 Meters/sec per second. Done.

Julie January 12, 2022 - 1:59 AM

Truth in gravity + human body: Years ago, I was an aquatic therapist and spent 40 hrs/wk in a pool. After 6 months, I couldn't walk 1 mile on land without severe pain. Yeah, gravity is important! (& I was young & dumb and didn't exercise on land bc I was so tired after work… but I should've!)

Cristian January 12, 2022 - 2:00 AM

Funny how things are "expensive" to build but in reality humanity shouldn't be concerned about how much money it takes to save or improve our lifes… kinda sad.

Itz Sleazy January 12, 2022 - 3:19 AM

How have I never heard of a small scale centrifuge for space travel!? It seems like a great idea!