Japan comes up with a wild concept to create artificial gravity on the Moon


The list of challenges space explorers will face is formidable. They will have to produce breathable air, clean water and food in extremely hostile environments devoid of any of the above. They will also have to coexist peacefully with small groups of other explorers in tight spaces for long periods of time, while minimizing exposure to searing radiation that is ubiquitous virtually everywhere they go.

Assuming the explorers overcome these challenges, there’s another that doesn’t get the love it deserves, according to researchers at Kyoto University in Japan.

The long-term settlement of Earth’s orbit, the moon, Mars and beyond requires explorers to abandon Earth’s gravity – the constant downward force that every terrestrial animal has evolved to navigate for billions of years. Studies of astronauts spending weeks or months in microgravity have shown atrophied muscles, bone loss, loss of vision, and immune system changes. There haven’t been any studies of humans living on low-gravity planetary bodies, of course, but it’s likely that adult explorers would face health issues – and how all of that might affect the childbirth and normal child development is unknown.

Assuming that some kind of artificial gravity would greatly reduce these risks, Kyoto University has teamed up with construction company Kajima Corp to explore futuristic concepts that could one day offer tourists and settlers a hearty dose good old Earth gravity.

Their vision of a distant future? A towering sci-fi space cone, called the Glass, said to be 1,312 feet (400 meters) high and 656 feet (200 meters) wide. This habitat would rotate around its axis once every 20 seconds so people living on its interior walls could take advantage of Earth’s gravity, alongside trees, grass and a lake that would make MC Escher proud. . Plans call for rotating habitats on the Moon and Mars, where gravity is significantly lower than Earth’s.

In addition to the habitat itself, the three-part proposal, outlined in a press release and video last week, also sketched out a transport system between Earth, Mars and the Moon called Hexatrack, which would include standardized vehicles for travel between habitats. on the surface of the planet or moon and base stations in orbit.

Obviously, this is all more of a nice concept to solve a real problem than something vaguely practical today.

The sheer size of the enterprise – similar to building the Empire State Building upside down on the moon or Mars, spinning it around like a top, then layering water, soil and other internal structures inside – would require huge amounts of resources and technical know-how. And without exceptional design, living in such an environment, where the ground visibly curves at your feet and the tug of local gravity clashes with the artificial gravity of the structure, could be quite disorienting. The team envisions our migration to the Moon and Mars won’t hit full stride until the second half of this century, but even that timeline for work on this scale seems optimistic.

For now, the idea is more at home among other futuristic space concepts. Although focused on off-planet life, for example, O’Neill’s cylinder vision, proposed in the mid-1970s, was complete with rotational-based gravity, lakes, farmland, and even the artificial sun. At the moment, however, we are much closer to realizing small private space bubbles in orbit, like those designed by Axiom Space, than alien megastructures like these.

Yet, as going to space with reusable rockets becomes cheaper and alternative methods of firing stuff into orbit – like this space catapult – emerge, we can hone our abilities both to build structures and also to find, mine and exploit resources there. There is an abundance of raw materials to maintain our presence in space. Eventually, we might start designing ever larger structures in orbit and elsewhere, and the wild concepts being talked about today might seem like a bit more realistic.

Either way, there’s no doubt that bringing a little more gravity with us would help the cause. Maybe someone will build rotating conical towers on the moon – or maybe there will be a better and more practical alternative by then.

Either way, it’s fun to dream.

Image Credit: Takuya Ono and Kajima Co. Ltd.


Comments are closed.