Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Artificial Gravity Via Bigelow Space Stations? Authentic NASA Toys and Replicas
No matter where you go, you can not escape it. Understood by infants, "math-matized" by Newton, you can not forsake the effects of gravity, no matter what your "lying eyes" may be telling you.

You may never be able to escape the effects of gravity (in its entirety), but you can reduce it, freeing yourself from the stress of lifting objects of greater density than yourself.

One of the best places to do this is by launching yourself beyond the sky in order to get a glimpse of the heavens above. But staying there for long periods could have harmful effects upon your health, hurting not only your heart, bones, and immune system, but also aiding the deadly bacteria trying to kill you.

Currently scientists are trying to find ways to combat this issue, using everything from drugs to brain surgery. Although these options may eventually liberate us from the side effects of microgravity, it may be "less messy" to find a technological solution (as it may have less side effects).

While futuristic technologies such as plasma rockets and space elevator stations may hold much promise for our young race (gravity wise), we may be better off constructing orbital space stations--with a Bigelow twist.

Bigelow Aerospace, a space corporation focusing on creating inflatable space stations may be the key towards solving our gravitational woes.

Having already successfully launched two inflatable space stations (with a third one planned for human habitation), Bigelow plans on launching these inflatable modules, and connecting them together to form a space station that may rival the ISS.

(Image Credit: Bigelow Aerospace)

But what if Bigelow Aerospace could alter the design of their inflatable modules to make several of them connect in a circle? They could then slowly rotate the entire structure (note: which may be an engineer's nightmare) in order to simulate artificial gravity via centrifugal force.

While some may prefer to have an orbital space station enclosed with a "hardier" shell, doing so may not be as feasible due to the rising cost of rocket launches (hat tip:

Bigelow's modules on the other hand, may not only be cheaper to launch into space, but may be safer as well, as its thick outer skin may be able to take "a greater punch" than its metallic rivals.

These inflatable modules may also more expendable than their more rigid cousins, as it would be much easier to replace a module or two (like a Pontoon bridge), than an entire section of a more traditional space station.

Whether or not Bigelow eventually decides to move in this direction, only time will reveal. But if so, Bigelow could ultimately allow us to safely venture out into the blackness of space, without the fear of losing our health in the process.

Editors Note (3/31): Ken Talton of the Brickmuppet Blog points out that the engineering/math to rotate Bigelow's inflatable space stations in order to simulate gravity has already been figured out, and can be seen over here (pdf).

Update (3/31): The space stations are not exactly like Bigelow, but they do provide some "hard science" towards the idea.

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  1. Hi Darnell

    Intriguing idea. A suggestion, with an eye to the future, is to set the Station's gee-level at Mars-equivalent (3.71 m/s^2, coincidentally Mercury's gee-level too.)

    If 6 rpm can be tolerated - and all the biomedical data actually gathered suggests so - then the radius of rotation at Mars-gee only has to be 9.4 metres. A separate Lunar gee deck at 4.1 metres would allow data to be collected on gee-levels on a number of moons (Luna, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto and Titan.) Thus the adaptation of the body to eight different worlds can be studied.

    Cool idea?

  2. @ Qraal: That is not a cool idea...its a great idea!

    While rotating the station to simulate Martian gravity may be a bit harder, lunar (not to mention the habitable Galilean Moons plus Titan) should be "fairly easy" to create.


    Note: I just received an email from Ken Talton who gives further insight regarding this over at the Brickmuppet Blog.


You can either visit the stars or watch them from afar.

But if you choose the former, you'll definitely get a better view.

~Darnell Clayton, 2007

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