The idea of using centrifugal force to create a sensation of gravity in space originated as early as 1903, but a group of space enthusiasts believes its time has come. Check out Gateway’s vision for the Von Braun Rotating Space Station.
It’s amazing to look back at the great minds of the past and marvel at their visions for the future. Russia’s Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was writing science fiction right back in the late 1800s at the dawn of the gasoline engine era, and yet he was already dreaming of space travel and starting to solve problems that would arise if you sent humans off the planet.
One of these problems is the lack of gravity. Tsiolkovsky could only have guessed it at the time, but living in zero gravity plays absolute havoc on the human body. Astronaut Scott Kelly wrote a harrowing account last year of just how much of a mess he was when he came back to Earth after a year aboard the ISS. It’s no joke, the body relies on gravity for everything from balance, circulation and vision to maintaining bone density and muscle mass. A year in space can just about wreck you.
Tsiolkovsky came up with the idea of a toroidal space station based on a hub-and-spokes design much like a bicycle wheel. If the wheel spins in space, then inertia and centrifugal force can create a kind of fake gravity, pulling things toward the outer circumference of the wheel. Instead of floating about losing bone density and muscle mass, people could walk on a floor just like they do back on planet Earth. Heck, you could speed it up, walk around in 2G for a few months, and come back to Earth a superman rippling with muscle.