Japan offers an artificial gravity station for the Moon and Mars

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As humans prepare to return to the Moon in 2025, as part of the Artemis program, scientists are thinking about how to establish a permanent human presence on our satellite. In this context, a Japanese team has developed a concept for a lunar base with artificial gravity. This structure is called “lunar glass,” and it uses centrifugal force to reproduce a gravity similar to that of Earth.

We know that staying in space for a long time has serious consequences for the human body. NASA program, Human Research Program, dedicated specifically to the study of the effects of space on the body. The effect is psychological and physical; It can be hard to tolerate isolation and confinement with a handful of individuals. Loss of bone mineral density and decreased muscle mass are among the effects of microgravity. In addition, body fluids move toward the head, which increases eye pressure and can cause vision problems.

Despite data collected in recent years – particularly from astronauts residing on the International Space Station – the effects of low gravity on the body have yet to be elucidated. However, if we plan to settle on the Moon, or even on Mars – whose gravity is 1.62 m/s2 and 3.72 m/s2 Respectively – it would be interesting to allow settlers to live in an environment with a gravitational equivalent to that of the land, in order to reduce the risk.

Reducing the risks associated with low gravity

This is exactly why researchers from Kyoto University, along with construction experts from Kajima Corporation, designed an artificial gravity plant. It is for them the only condition that will allow a person to truly thrive in space. ” 1G is the identity of humanity ,” the project designers confirmed in a press release.

Scientists suggest that an individual growing up in a zero-gravity or low-gravity environment may not be able to stand or move normally. ” Without gravity, mammals may not be able to reproduce and their young may not grow well. The team explains in the press release, which notes that NASA’s research on this topic has focused primarily on adults. So we have no idea how babies grow under different gravity.

They presented their project last week at a press conference. The structure resembles a huge rotating vertical cone, with walls of glass. We can see expanses of water, vegetation (gardens, trees), houses; Humans evolve there as if they were on Earth. The presentation video even shows boats sailing on the water!

Nicknamed lunar glass, this cone is about 400 meters high and makes a full rotation every 20 seconds: centrifugal force allows access to the gravity that humans are accustomed to. The chassis was specifically designed to withstand the weather conditions of the Moon and Mars. In parallel, the researchers planned to develop an interplanetary transport system: this “hexagonal space path system” would also maintain normal gravity during flights connecting Earth, the Moon and Mars.

Human physiology as a limiting factor

In 2017, Thomas Lang, an expert in radiology and biomedical imaging at the University of California, San Francisco, noted that technology is not the true limiting factor in space exploration. In fact, the real limiting factor is human physiology. Many of the changes that researchers have observed as a result of spaceflight are similar to those observed with age – except that they occur more quickly.

Bone and muscle problems have appeared since the first space flights of the Apollo missions, in the 1960s and 1970s. Since then, astronauts who stay on the International Space Station for a long time must adhere to regular physical training, to maintain their muscle strength and strength. bones. But even today, many astronauts suffer from back pain for years after returning to Earth.

Researchers have found that hypogravity interrupts the normal cycle of bone function: By reducing pressure in the bone, osteoclasts continue to reabsorption of damaged bone, but osteoblasts do not rebuild it. Lang estimated that astronauts who stayed six months on the International Space Station lost between 6 and 9% of the total bone density in their hips!

Low gravity in space also affects the vascular system, especially the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels from the inside. This leads to circulatory problems and an increased risk of arrhythmias and heart attacks. One study reports the risk of kidney stones inherent in long-duration spaceflight — a risk due to astronauts being dehydrated and excreting calcium from their bones.

In short, it is imperative that we offer humans who will remain on the Moon for a long time – and possibly on Mars – an environment that will not endanger them. It seems that the project proposed by this Japanese team is the best way to meet the need. The team plans to build the first prototype on the moon by 2050.

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