And it’s outta here!
Q. As an aging slugger, you want to go out with a bang in 2019 with an impressive ratio of home runs to at-bats. You must choose your playing time wisely. Would you rather bat on a 59-degree night in Phoenix in April (with the roof open) or a 97-degree day in Atlanta in June?
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FROM THE MARCH ISSUE
ARTIFICIAL GRAVITY: We asked you what phenomenon aboard an experimental, rotating space station would cause astronauts to feel nauseated as they work but normal when they sleep. Your responses were reviewed by astrophysicist Erin Macdonald, a science fiction consultant and host of “Dr. Erin Explains the Universe” on YouTube, and former astronaut Dr. Michael Barratt, who works for NASA on medical issues related to new spacecraft and human spaceflight. They agreed the following was the best answer.
WINNING RESPONSE: The engineers didn’t consider the differences between real gravity, which is consistent and homogeneous, versus simulated gravity, which is generated by the centrifugal force of the rotating space station. The issue is that the station’s rotation causes not only a centrifugal force, but also causes other more subtle forces.
The bad news is the engineers didn’t consider these additional forces, particularly the Coriolis effect, which would be most troublesome for our sickly space trekkers. The Coriolis effect would have the inner ear fluids of our brave test astronauts spinning with little vortexes, which would make even seasoned test pilots queasy. There also would be a subtle difference in the “direction” our intrepid crew feels the force of the simulated gravity, depending if they are walking “with” or “against” the direction of the station’s rotation. Even the differences in the amount of simulated gravity felt at their feet, versus the lower gravity felt at their heads (which would be 2 meters closer to the center of rotation) would be an unnatural and disorienting sensation. However, the Coriolis effect would be the primary problem.
The good news is all these sensations would dissipate when they lie down at night.
How can our engineers rectify this in Space Station Version 2.0? By designing the station with a large enough radius from the central point to the habitation ring, and a carefully calculated rotational speed, and arriving at the ideal ratio for a comfortable compromise of radius, angular habitat ring velocity and simulated G-force.
Todd Chamberlain; Prince Albert, Saskatchewan; firstname.lastname@example.org