About space stations

One of the most outstanding scenes in the landmark film “2001: A Space Odyssey” was the Pan Am Space Clipper approaching Space Station 5.  The huge wheel, spinning in the star speckled darkness was a nearly hypnotizing sight.  reality, though may be something entirely different.  The purpose of spinning the space station is to create the illusion of being anchored against a gravity field, a making possible in the free-fall of orbit, things like running, bathing, eating, sleeping, and No. 1 and No. 2.

However, convienence is not the motivation for whirling tons of metal around and around.  Without some kind of gravity field pull us down, we become blobs of jelly, unable to stand up, to walk, even to sit.  The adaptation to weightlessness is amazingly quick, while the recovery from the effects can take longer than the exposure to free-fall.  One answer in science fiction books in the mini-centrefuge, which spins up fast enough that people can stand on the walls, which have become the floor.  So, if you ever walk into a room and notice a toilet hanging from the wall, you will know that your hosts are prepared for free-fall, and will be able to provide you with a device that you are familiar with the operation of, if not the process.

Having the sleeping quarters in a centrefuge might be the answer to exposing crew memebers to long periods of acceleration, (the term for experiencing a gravity field,) without the tedium of confinement in close quarters for long periods of time with nothing to do.  The force created by spinning the container around and around does not have to be the same, oh so powerful 1 g (for Gravity.)  Even the Moon’s miniscule 1/6 of a g might be enough to prevent turning into an ugly bag of water.  So the bunkhouse might take you for a spin.

And remember always the three folks who are living in space right now, zipping by once in a while at 17,500 mph.  If you notice a really bright star moving steading across the heavens, without any blinking lights, non-ballistic motions, or energy beams, you are probably looking at the International Space Station, which is frequently visible from some part of the U. S. or another.The crews rotate out on a flexible schedule, as the transit system is still in the development stage.  But we are learning to live and to work in space.  Most of the work has just been to keep the whole thing working, but problems with the transit system have had major impacts.  For a while there were only two folks on an “expedition” as the tours of duty are called.  Getting anything done was almost impossible.

And they suffered mightly when they returned to Earth, but we have learned much since those days.  Ever wonder where the idea of the ‘glider’ type exercise machine came from?  Up there.  These awesome cordless tools?  (Look for a battery powered floor buffer in the next five years.)  Up there.  Microminiture cameras that provide incredible video?  Take a guess.  Up there, you have to learn to do things differently than you do them down here, which leads to innovation, which leads to invention, which leads to wealth.


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