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Space Ship Gravity

December 3, 2008

Spinning spaceships could create artificial gravity in principle but not in practice.


Sci-Fi fact check. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Neil from Melbourne, Australia, wonders whether a spinning spaceship would really create artificial gravity inside. We turned to Stephen Merkowitz of NASA.

The short answer is, yes, it will work.

A spinning spaceship pushes astronauts toward the sides, just like the amusement park ride. But also like the ride, if it spins too fast your inner ear and your eyes experience the motion differently, especially if you turn your head.

So your body gets confused and it makes you sick.

You could slow the spinning to a healthy range and still keep the artificial gravity strong by making the ship bigger – a lot bigger. A hundred kilometers in diameter, says Merkowitz – still in the realm of science fiction. If you have a science question, call us at 1-800-WHY-ISIT. If we use your question, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.