to go for a spin?
- There is no doubt that future Red Planet explorers will
be more than a little weak-in-the-knees after a round-trip
jaunt lasting some three years. Research shows that exposure
to microgravity weakens muscle, causes bone loss and plays
havoc with a person's balance and coordination.
But a team of scientists and engineers here at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology's (MIT) Man-Vehicle Laboratory are
tackling the problem with experiments in artificial gravity.
Artificial gravity has long been viewed as the most effective
way to prevent deconditioning of space travelers. In the 1950's,
for example, space visionary Wernher
von Braun saw a huge, rotating space station to keep
occupants fit and functional. So too did moviemaker Stanley
Kubrick and writer Arthur Clarke in the two-thumbs-up sci-fi
epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
now there's a new spin on creating artificial gravity. "There's
the growing notion that we must get away from a large and
expensive-to-build spinning wheel and get down to something
considerably smaller," said MIT's
Laurence Young, professor of aeronautics and astronautics.
Young and his colleagues are hard at work on investigating
use of a personal centrifuge. Just a few yards (meters) in
radius, the device is too small to live in. Yet an astronaut
could get something akin to a gravitational massage using
the scheme. "I call it a spin in the gym," Young told SPACE.com.
"You go into such a device for a workout, just like you go
to the gym," he said.