Monday, September 13, 2010

Artificial Gravity & Summer Reading

I occasionally take a break from reading value-add leadership and Business books to read books that let me dream a little. My latest dream book (good summer reading) is Pirate Sun, book three of Virga. The adventures take place in an planet-sized fullerene bubble on the edge of a distant solar system. The bubble is filled with breathable air and other natural resources. The only gravity is generated from spinning cylindrical “town wheels”. The series is probably inspired by Larry Niven's Ringworld or Bob Shaw's Orbitsville.

A fascinating character from Pirate Sun is a short muscular man raised from an infant by an authoritative regime on a town wheel with 2g’s constant gravity. Although such a high gravity permanently shortened his stature, the effects of heightened gravity gave him a significant strength advantages when, as a soldier, he attacked those from town wheels with lesser gravity.

This fantasy got me thinking about artificial gravity applications of spinning a spacecraft. As I hear scientists discuss artificial gravity they mention 1g as a formula that for sure works for humans. And they discuss the desire to test long term impacts of one-sixth and one-third gravity for obvious reasons (moon and Mars), but I would be interested in evaluating the health impacts from sustained increased gravity. Okay, so we don’t send infants into orbit to prepare them for a life of forced service as an “Atlas”. But could some level of increased gravity prior to a long-duration mission outside of LEO give astronauts any heightened resiliency to the ravaging effects of micro-gravity?

And while we are on the topic. I really don’t see significant orbital tourism taking off until space stations offer artificial gravity in the bedrooms (as a minimum). Sure it’s fun to float around during the day, but high-paying space tourists (the kind that want a romantic second honey-moon, not the kind that have already climbed Everest) will want and expect their meals and personal bedroom cabins to contain 1g. The successful space hotels will offer gravity as a the norm with weightlessness as an optional activity to enjoy.

Now…back to my business books.


  1. I agree with you. Artificial gravity would actually be quite attractive to space tourist-- especially if its lower gravity (maybe 1/6 to 1/3 G). Tourist could still have the option of going to the central axis of a rotating space station in order to experience a microgravity environment.

  2. Marcel:

    Some are aslo considering a station with multiple spinning wheels - each with their own g levels. Moon gravity in the morning, Mars in the afternoon, and weightless (as you say) in the central axis, before bed - sounds like a fun vacation to me.

  3. I would think even higher than 1/3 to 1/6: high enough that you feel normal but still incredibly strong, youthful, and bouncy. Fountain of youth stuff. If 1/6 gravity doesn't hurt longevity at all then I suspect the first big killer app for the moon will be retirement centers for the wealthy.