Is Artificial Gravity a Real Possibility?

December 12, 2018

Star Wars, Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, and more all have artificial gravity. Cheddar explores how the movies get artificial gravity wrong and if we'll ever be able to have it in real life.


Speaker 1: Artificial gravity.

Speaker 1: Star Wars has it,

Speaker 1: Star Trek has it.

Speaker 1: Guardians of the Galaxy has it.

Speaker 2: That is true.

Speaker 1: But here's us.

Speaker 3: Sometimes the water gets away from you.

Speaker 1: Okay. The one towards to you.

Speaker 5: No, got away.

Speaker 4: Yeah, these are all science fiction movies,

Speaker 4: but it's artificial gravity even possible?

Speaker 4: Let's see I'm Patrick Jones

Speaker 4: and this is Cheddar explores [NOISE].

Speaker 4: The Intrepid Air and Space Museum

Speaker 4: here in New York City standing in front of

Speaker 4: the space shuttle Enterprise.

Speaker 4: Enterprise was the orbiter prototype

Speaker 4: that led to the shuttle program.

Speaker 4: Of course the shuttles didn't have

Speaker 4: gravity and former astronaut

Speaker 4: Mike Massimino knows the effects of

Speaker 4: that on the human body firsthand.

Speaker 2: When your spine grows a

Speaker 2: bit and you feel a little discomfort when that happens,

Speaker 2: it usually happens like your first night you feel it.

Speaker 2: Zero gravity it tends to pull in

Speaker 2: the upper extremities and in

Speaker 2: the head actually kind of like a head cold.

Speaker 6: [OVERLAPPING] Do a flip for

Speaker 6: your family and friends [OVERLAPPING].

Speaker 6: Can you do that? Slowly.

Speaker 1: Slowly.

Speaker 2: Going upside down for the first time when I was in space

Speaker 2: from a body position I felt like I

Speaker 2: was still straight up and down,

Speaker 2: but that the whole room had rotated

Speaker 2: 180 degrees which was really troubling.

Speaker 2: I didn't like it at all,

Speaker 2: I quickly turned myself right side up.

Speaker 2: But after a couple days,

Speaker 2: I was able to be having my feet on the ceiling

Speaker 2: and having a conversation and it didn't matter.

Speaker 2: However, Mike shared that your brain adapts relatively

Speaker 2: quickly making you feel

Speaker 2: comfortable in the new environment.

Speaker 2: But there's a catch.

Speaker 1: The longer you spend,

Speaker 1: the more you're gonna adapt when you get there,

Speaker 1: so you going to feel more and more

Speaker 1: comfortable overtime up there.

Speaker 1: And I think as you come back,

Speaker 1: it's gonna take a longer time to get used to it again.

Speaker 2: We saw that with astronaut Scott Kelly

Speaker 2: who recently spent a year in space.

Speaker 2: When he got back, he suffered from muscle degradation and

Speaker 2: bone mass loss making it

Speaker 2: difficult to move on Earth for some time,

Speaker 2: struggling to move upon landing would be

Speaker 2: a major hurdle for studying other planets like Mars.

Speaker 2: Now, knowing the benefit of

Speaker 2: artificial gravity, can we do it?

Speaker 2: Scientists say maybe, if we were to create it,

Speaker 2: our design might look closest to

Speaker 2: the spacecraft from 2001. A Space Odyssey.

Speaker 2: Space Station Five is composed of these spinning rings,

Speaker 2: they create centrifugal force that pushes people

Speaker 2: toward the outer edges of

Speaker 2: the craft giving them a Florida walk on.

Speaker 2: If you've ever ridden the gravitron you

Speaker 2: could experience what we're talking about here.

Speaker 2: But even Stanley Kubrick didn't get it quite right.

Speaker 2: That's because the circle was just not big enough.

Speaker 2: Those circles would need to be larger and spin

Speaker 2: faster to create an experience

Speaker 2: that would resemble Earth's gravity.

Speaker 2: And that's the problem,

Speaker 2: it would need to be massive.

Speaker 2: If you built it on Earth,

Speaker 2: the craft would have a hard time

Speaker 2: reaching the escape velocity

Speaker 2: necessary to get it off the planet in one piece.

Speaker 2: And if you build it into space, well,

Speaker 2: have you seen the price tag of the space station?

Speaker 2: And even still, the artificial gravity created by

Speaker 2: a spinning ship wouldn't

Speaker 2: recreate an environment like we have here on Earth.

Speaker 2: That's because centrifugal force

Speaker 2: is not the same as gravity.

Speaker 2: On Earth we enjoy a gravitational field

Speaker 2: created by its mass.

Speaker 2: Gravity is relatively uniform depending on altitudes.

Speaker 2: For example, the gravity at sea level in

Speaker 2: Bombay is about the same as Miami.

Speaker 2: Centrifugal force on the other hand,

Speaker 2: pushes matter away from the center axis,

Speaker 2: so it's not consistent,

Speaker 2: the closer you are to the center,

Speaker 2: the closer you are to weightlessness,

Speaker 2: the closer you are to the edge

Speaker 2: the more weight you'd feel.

Speaker 2: So, it would never feel quite like home.

Speaker 2: The other option is to create a spacecraft big

Speaker 2: enough to create its own gravity field.

Speaker 1: Look at me, it's heading for that small moon.

Speaker 3: That's no moon. It's a space station [NOISE].

Speaker 5: Just don't give it an easy flop,

Speaker 5: so it explodes [MUSIC].