For those who watched, have you ever noticed that Captain Kirk is standing still on the Enterprise? Why is that? I mean, if you are in the deep space, far from any planet’s gravitational attraction, you should be floating because of the absence of gravity. Captain Kirk is standing with his feet on the Enterprise’s deck. He seems to weight the same that he would weight here on Earth, and also all the objects on the Hermes – as the interplanetary craft in the Martian is dubbed – are behaving as if they were in your room, and not in a spaceship travelling in the deep space.
Something in the Enterprise and the Hermes is simulating and creating gravity.
How is it possible?
We know that Star Trek is sci-fi. But what about real life? Is it possible to recreate artificial gravity? And why do we need artificial gravity?
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Imagine that you’re inside a vehicle — or another machine — and you are spinning around so fast that the force presses your body against the wall or seat. As you spin faster and faster than pressure forcing you against the wall increases (and conversely it decreases as the spin slows down). Sure you’ve experienced it before. The weight feels exactly like the force of gravity that keeps your body grounded to the earth.
Think about it. You may have experienced it in your childhood, when you visited for the first time an amusement park ride, with a classic Rotor Ride that has produced a great deal of joy since the middle of the 19th century. Did you remember it? How was it? I remember mine. It was so cool! But then I vomited. By the way, a handful of people, including astronauts, experience the same phenomenon in a human-rated centrifuge, a machine that spins to produce these high “G forces,” also called acceleration. They experience this G-force aboard high-performance aircraft during high speed turns, and during launches into space and when spacecraft rapidly slow as they reenter Earth’s atmosphere.
Now I want to ask you a question: have you ever heard of a reduced-gravity aircraft?
A reduced-gravity aircraft is a type of fixed-wing aircraft that provides brief near-weightless environments for training astronauts, conducting research and making gravity-free movie shots.
Versions of such aeroplanes were operated by the NASA Reduced Gravity Research Program, and one is currently operated by the Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration Programmes of the European Space Agency. The unofficial nickname “vomit comet” became popular among those who experienced their operation.
But let’s go back to the Rotor Ride.
This type of rotation produces gravity — artificial gravity to be precise. It provides weight to your body! You can’t distinguish the artificial-gravity weight from the weight on Earth: to your bones and your muscles, it wiìould be pretty much the same!
Why haven’t we built ourselves a centripetal space station yet?
One problem is the size. In fact, the scale of such a craft would pose some (big) problems. According to physics, the smaller the spacecraft is, the faster it has to rotate, so if you’re going to generate gravity, it’s got to be done with a large spacecraft that spins very slowly. The bigger the disk, the slower you can rotate it.
Are NASA and others researching the possibility to travel in an artificial gravity spacecraft?
The answer is yes. Since the 1960s, NASA scientists have been considering the prospect of artificial gravity by way of rotation. However, the effort, funding and overall enthusiasm have waxed and waned through the decades. One example is the Nautilus-X project.
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Credits: Ron Miller
Credits: Mark A. Garlick / MarkGarlick.com
Credits: Nasa/Shutterstock/Storyblocks/Elon Musk/SpaceX/ESA/ESO
#InsaneCuriosity #ArtificialGravity #Physics