Solutions to the Zero-G problem

From: zeb haradon (
Date: Wed Oct 25 2000 - 18:27:01 MDT

Everyone here knows that the biggest problem for long term space travel, at
least in our current biological state, is that the body begins to undergo a
type of "space rot" in zero gravity, the muscles atrophy, the bones weaken,
etc. This is most frequently mentioned as a serious barrier to a manned
mission to Mars. On the ISS, astronauts will get two hours of excercise
today. On Mir, and any shuttle mission, physical excercise is always
practiced, and the astronauts are still phased when they return to Earth.
These are missions of less then a year - missions in weightlessness lasting
decades would probably kill us upon returning to a gravity environment.
There needs to be some way to have the muscles in constant excercise, as
they are here on Earth resisting gravity. Someone mentioned the idea of
tethers, and correctly added that they will clutter up the craft. Here are
some possible solutions I've thought of. Feel free to build on and implement
them. I'll start with the worst ideas and move up. I'm sure science fiction
authors have beaten me to most of these.
1. Have a constant downward air flow. Basically, the astronauts would live
in a wind tunnel pushing them into the ground. They would need to excercise
muscle power to stand against it. It would probably take a lot of power,
would be noisy, and would require specialized ships (would not be portable),
and it would be impossible to read a newspaper. Also, they would probably go
deaf very quickly.
2. Have the ship filled with water, or some more viscous fluid. The
astronauts would face some resistance just trying to get around because they
would need to fight against the water. A downward flow, as in idea number 1,
would assist too and give a direction to the artificial gravity. Drawbacks
are that it would weigh the ship down a lot, and that they would need some
way to breath, perhaps by suits or, in 25 years or so, by respiocytes which
can leave their body to interface with the water and drawing out oxygen. The
computer equipment would need to be water proof. A benefit is that the water
could be drunk, and broken down by solar powered electrolysis to use for
fuel, and it would provide some protection against radiation. It would need
to be constantly cleaned, would require special ships, and is not portable.
Respiocyte reference:
3. Replace the force of gravity with the magnetic force. This was my first
idea: somehow have the astronauts body have metal in/on it, either by
attachments to his body (no more complicated then jewelry) or implanted in
him. Possibly, devise some molecule which has an impermeable bio-friendly
core, and is full of metal on the inside. Then megnetize the floor. The
problem is that the megnetic force is very strong close up and very week far
away. His feet would feel the effects but his head would still be in zero-G,
unless he fell down. The effects would be no different then having a sticky
floor. Then I came up with the idea of having it so that the astronaut has
small electromagnets all over his body, and the floor is metal. The
electomagnets would be able to sense how far they are from the floor, and
adjust their magnetism to approximate the effects of gravity. The
electromagnet on the soul of his foot knows it's less then a centimeter from
the metal floor, so it is completely off. The one on top of his head knows
it's far away so it would be on maximum power. If he falls over, each magnet
on/in his body senses the approaching ground and adjusts its strength
accordingly. The problems with this are that there would have to be
extensive testing to find out the effects of having a super-powered magnet
right next to your brain 24 hours a day - maybe there already is data on
this, but I don't think it would be good for you. Also, I don't know if the
electromagnets can be that strong and that powerful at the same time. The
equipment may get heavy. The ships would have to be somewhat specialized:
they could have no metal parts except for the strip on the floor. The
computer equipment in the ship would need to be adapted to be resistant to
the constant magnetic fields, hard disks at least would have to go and some
slower alternative would have to be used.
4. The best one I've thought of is completely portable and do-able within 5
years. There is a "smart material" called electroactive polymer. It has been
proposed as an artificial muscle for robots or even artificial muscle for
humans. It bends, in a muscle-like way, in response to a voltage applied to
it. So my idea is, build a suit embedded with this stuff and have it react
to your movements in such a way as to approximate the effects of gravity.
When you lift up your arms, it senses the movement away from the ground, and
applies a slight and calculated resistance, trying to pull your arms back
down. This (and number 3) could be turned off with the flip of a switch in
an emergency situation. When it's on, it might take some getting used to. I
would think your movements would be kind of jerky, and until it's tested I
wouldn't know how long it would take to get used to it, if ever. This one is
completely portable and could be used on today's space shuttle. Another good
thing about it is that it would have a direction of gravity, but that
direction would not have to be the floor, it would just be whatever
direction your feet happen to be facing, and you could still float. Here is
a reference to the electroactivated polymer material:

Zeb Haradon (
My personal webpage:
A movie I'm directing:

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