The Lack of Gravity in Space Problem solved?

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Jedi Master
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The Lack of Gravity in Space Problem solved?

Post by Lucky » Fri Jul 10, 2015 6:14 am wrote: Researchers at King’s College London are working with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a high-tech, tight-fitted space ‘skinsuit’ to help astronauts overcome back problems in space.

Astronauts’ bodies adapt to weightlessness in space, causing bone and muscle mass to decrease as they are not needed to counteract the force of gravity. The ‘gravity loading countermeasure skinsuit’ utilises a lightweight elastic material that gradually produces cumulative tension, shoulder to foot. It does this by using horizontal strands in the suit as a 'belt' which creates a loading system directed towards the feet. This loading system simulates an additional 1g bodyweight, thereby mimicking the gravitational pull of the Earth and the force this generates on our bodies.

In weightlessness, astronauts have been known to grow by up to 7cm as gravity is no longer loading the spine. Many astronauts suffer from backache during their missions as a result of this. When astronauts return to Earth they are four times more likely to suffer a slipped disc than usual, meaning they have to take care as they exercise their bodies back into shape.

Phil Carvil, Centre of Human & Aerospace Physiological Sciences (CHAPS) at King’s, said: ‘Here on Earth we are constantly resisting gravity, meaning that even by sitting and walking around we’re exercising our muscles and bones. In space the loading effect of gravity is removed and as a consequence, astronauts’ bones and muscles aren’t getting the natural forces they need to keep them healthy.’

The skinsuit could also be used on Earth to counteract the effects of ageing on bone density and muscle mass. wrote: Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) have a number of exercise options, including a mechanical bicycle bolted to the floor, a weightlifting machine strapped to the wall, and a strap-down treadmill. They spend a significant portion of each day working out to ward off the long-term effects of weightlessness, but many still suffer bone loss, muscle atrophy, and issues with balance and their cardiovascular systems. 

To counteract such debilitating effects, research groups around the world are investigating artificial gravity — the notion that astronauts, exposed to strong centrifugal forces, may experience the effects of gravity, even in space. Engineers have been building and testing human centrifuges — spinning platforms that, at high speeds, generate G-forces strong enough to mimic gravity. An astronaut, riding in a centrifuge, would presumably feel gravity’s reinforcing effects.

Now engineers at MIT have built a compact human centrifuge with an exercise component: a cycle ergometer that a person can pedal as the centrifuge spins. The centrifuge was sized to just fit inside a module of the ISS. After testing the setup on healthy participants, the team found the combination of exercise and artificial gravity could significantly lessen the effects of extended weightlessness in space — more so than exercise alone.

Laurence Young, the Apollo Program Professor in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, says artificial gravity would be a huge benefit for astronauts, particularly those embarking on long-duration space missions, such as a journey to Mars. The risks, he says, are uncertain, but potentially significant. wrote: Abstract
Humans experience physiological deconditioning during space missions, primarily attributable to weightlessness. Some of these adverse consequences include bone loss, muscle atrophy, sensory-motor deconditioning, and cardiovascular alteration, which may lead to orthostatic intolerance when astronauts return to Earth. Artificial gravity could provide a comprehensive countermeasure capable of challenging all the physiological systems at once, particularly if combined with exercise, thereby maintaining overall health during extended exposure to weightlessness. A new Compact Radius Centrifuge (CRC) platform was designed and built on the existing Short Radius Centrifuge (SRC) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The centrifuge has been constrained to a radius of 1.4 m, the upper radial limit for a centrifuge to fit within an International Space Station (ISS) module without extensive structural alterations. In addition, a cycle ergometer has been added for exercise during centrifugation. The CRC now includes sensors of foot forces, cardiovascular parameters, and leg muscle electromyography. An initial human experiment was conducted on 12 subjects to analyze the effects of different artificial gravity levels (0 g, 1 g, and 1.4 g, measured at the feet) and ergometer exercise intensities (25 W warm-up, 50 W moderate and 100 W vigorous) on the musculoskeletal function as well as motion sickness and comfort. Foot forces were measured during the centrifuge runs, and subjective comfort and motion sickness data were gathered after each session. Preliminary results indicate that ergometer exercise on a centrifuge may be effective in improving musculoskeletal function. The combination is well tolerated and motion sickness is minimal. The MIT CRC is a novel platform for future studies of exercise combined with artificial gravity. This combination may be effective as a countermeasure to space physiological deconditioning.
So it would appear that there is a good chance that the lack of gravity problem has been mostly dealt with?

On a less serious note, the solutions make Sci-Fi ships with huge rotating sections like those used by Earth Alliance of Babylon 5 look silly.

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Mr. Oragahn
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Re: The Lack of Gravity in Space Problem solved?

Post by Mr. Oragahn » Sun Jul 12, 2015 8:08 pm

Lucky wrote: So it would appear that there is a good chance that the lack of gravity problem has been mostly dealt with?
As far as muscles and spine are concerned, to an extent yes, it seems. It won't be perfect but it will force their bodies to exercise even in positions for which they'd otherwise have no work to provide in orbit.
On a less serious note, the solutions make Sci-Fi ships with huge rotating sections like those used by Earth Alliance of Babylon 5 look silly.
How so? The advantage of not having to wear some kind of fancy spandex suit all day is still superior, especially if you plan to build cities up there. You can still go "out" and dress as you wish.
Besides, the suit doesn't produce gravity. All the stuff in the shuttle and station will still be floating around. The spinning section applies a force to everything. You can mimic the Earth's surface environment that way. Much better!

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