Planning ahead is something that seems completely alien in our current soundbite world. When all anyone seems to think about, assuming they think at all in any meaningful way, is the next election, tomorrow’s stock market report, the next scandal in Washington/Hollywood, or the next genocide somewhere in the world, it is refreshing to hear about someone with a one-hundred-year plan. When that plan focuses on a revolving human habitat on the Moon and Mars, it becomes even more interesting. At least, to me.
The concept of using rotational force to generate artificial gravity for space habitats has been floating around since NASA said it was theoretically viable in the 1960s. Now Japanese researchers hope to spend the next century, YES THE NEXT CENTURY, building out that theory with cone-shaped contraptions that make living on either the moon or Mars gravitationally possible. Definitely, planning ahead!
The partnership between Kyoto University and Kajima Corporation aims to create a scaled-down prototype that uses rotational forces to craft artificial gravity for a Moon facility by 2050. The team plans to spend the next 100-plus years working out living conditions on the moon and Mars—and a delivery method to get people there. Is that planning ahead, or what?
“We propose that an artificial gravity living facility is regarded is the core technology for human beings to advance into space,” the team said in a news release.
Their structure, dubbed “The Glass,” uses the widely held theory that rotational forces placed on a structure can generate gravitational forces; in this case gravitational forces like those on Earth. In the Japanese proposal, “The Glass” structure resembles a cone stretching 1,300 feet tall. At this size, the centrifugal force achieved through rotation to mimic Earth’s gravity requires a full rotation of the living structure every 20 seconds. The concept is not far off the “O’Neill Cylinder” proposed in the how-to space book, The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space. Hopefully, it’s fast enough to create a gravitational pull within the facility, but not so fast as to make it unbearable as a living environment. Sounds a little precarious to me but, then, they have a hundred years to perfect it before someone has to try it out on the Moon or Mars. The advantages of the planning ahead. I should add that, at the rate the human race seems intent on destroying our planet, this may well be a critical exercise. We may even have to move up the Japanese timetable considerably. Planning ahead!
Having the proper gravitational impact will be a critical step in allowing people to move back and forth between Earth and other planets: Living in one setting for an extended period without experiencing ill-effects when they return to the other. Living with less gravity places a reduced workload on muscles and bones, weakening them, and can wreak havoc on the typical fluid flow within the body. This can lead to pooling of blood and health complications. A lack of gravity on developing children would have its own harmful effects.
“When a person grows up under a zero or low-gravity environment, their body would change so they wouldn’t be able to stand up on Earth,” the Japanese team says. “That’s because their muscles and skeleton just wouldn’t develop fully enough to withstand Earth’s gravity”. I certainly hadn’t thought of that aspect of space travel.
Embracing the inertia created with centrifugal force aims to offset the ill-effects. First, the team hopes to craft the core of the artificial gravity living facilities. Next, the team wants to create a Hexagon Space Track System, some sort of galaxy express line that travels from Earth to the Moon and on to Mars, to shuttle people back and forth. These proposals may seem far-fetched at the moment, but would be necessary steps to fulfilling the dream of living off-world. Planning ahead!
The challenge of constructing a building nearly as tall as the Empire State Building (The Glass), and sending it into space, is daunting, which is a key reason the concept of artificial gravity has remained only an idea since the 1960s. However, it may be essential to the survival of the human race. It also addresses the issue that I have raised in previous blogs. I have said repeatedly, “The U.S. Needs a Purpose”. Perhaps I should now modify that statement to “The World needs a Purpose”. Establishing an Earth-like gravitational-environment on the Moon and Mars could well give us that exciting purpose, and reintroduce the lost art of planning ahead.