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Engineers may have solved the problem of artificial gravity for space habitats

There is less gravity in space than there is here on Earth, which could be one of many challenges for the long-term viability (or, at the least, convenience) of space habitats for future galactic colonists. One way to get around this, scientists and engineers have posited, would be to build artificial space habitats that rotate around an axis in order to simulate gravity. The problem with this is that if they get the calculations wrong, inhabitants’ heads and feet would experience different gravitational pulls, likely resulting in a kind of motion sickness that would have space colonists reaching repeatedly for their vomit bags.

That’s one problem that researchers from Texas A&M University may have solved in a new paper describing a potential orbital space habitat of the future. In it, they discuss the radius required to avoid creating this effect in a concentric, cylinder-shaped habitat they refer to as Space Village One. They also describe the appropriate rotational speed of such a hypothetical space habit that would help occupants avoid motion sickness.

As Universe Today points out, the acceptable upper limit of rotational speed (less than 4 RPM) results in a radius of 56 meters, or 184 feet, which is the approximate height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This could dictate the dimensions of such a future space habitat, which would present an alternative to building on planets like Mars. If this is correct, it could enable space habitats where people could live with simulated gravity from centrifugal force — and without suffering terrible nausea. They suggest such a habitat could eventually accommodate up to 8,000 people.

In the same paper, the researchers also discuss other issues, such as radiation protection. They suggest a protective outer layer of water and a hefty chunk of rock five meters, or 16 feet, thick. As they write in an abstract: “Based on the human needs of temperature, cosmic radiation protection, atmosphere, clean water, food, physical fitness, and mental health, [the paper describes] a life support system … to show the livable environment under thermal and energy equilibrium. This habitat, Space Village One, [could allow] a long-term human presence in space such as space tourism, interstellar travel, space mineral mining, Mars colonization, etc.”

The paper, titled “Design and Analysis of a Growable Artificial Gravity Space Habitat,” was recently published in the journal Aerospace Science and Technology.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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