Space Architecture

Friday, December 15, 2006

"Artificial Gravity and the Architecture of Orbital Habitats" by Theodore Hall

Found this on Space Future, which is the site for "everyone who wants to go into space". It has a repository of articles, such as the one title for this blog entry. I found it while googling "space pyschology".

The article focuses on artificial gravity, with the intent of it being a mitigation strategy for people who live in otherwise microgravity environments for long periods of time. It's a very long piece, worth about 20 presses of the Page Down key on your keyboard. Hall lists 19 effects of living in microgravity, all of which is enough to discourage anyone from living in space. He goes into the formulas that one may use to determine an optimal angular velocity. One wants fast enough to have strong gravity, but not so fast as to induce disorientation every time the astronaut turns his/her head. Which means that one wants a very long radius. The longer, the better.

He writes at the end,
The design of an orbital habitat for artificial gravity depends on much more than physics. A few simple formulae relate the habitat's size and rotation to the apparent gravity. Unfortunately, the formulae are powerless to predict the satisfaction of the inhabitants. Many empirical studies have attempted to identify the comfort boundaries for artificial gravity, to constrain the values of the variables. Nevertheless, they have arrived at substantially different conclusions. The disagreement may be due in part to different assumptions regarding the mission, selection, motivation and adaptability of the target population. To support a large clientele, it may be safe to stay within the common ground of all of the empirical studies, choosing the most restrictive bounding value for each variable.

So much for clear answers. But, how to induce rotation in the first place, and keep it going? Hall doesn't go into that.


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