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Friday, August 20, 2010

97-Pound Weaklings




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97-Pound Weaklings


I've blogged about the need for advanced spacecraft drives in the past. Most of those postings focused on solar sails and ion drives.

In a nutshell, both of these drive systems are low-thrust systems, generating well under 1G of thrust. For those who aren't familiar with the concept of "1G", that is the same "thrust" that we are under standing on Earth. It's not really thrust, but rather the acceleration due to gravity, about 9.8 meters/second. But, if we were on a spacecraft accelerating at 1G, it would feel exactly the same as standing on Earth.

And that's where the above mentioned drives come in...

Getting a full G out of an ion or solar sail drive is a bit extreme. I haven't done the math, but I'm pretty sure a solar sail can't do it at all, and an ion drive would have to be pretty damned efficient to do the trick. But, either of them could do 0.5G rather handily.

The problem facing astronauts on a long voyage is one of muscle atrophy. From disuse, the muscles weaken. The fact is that without the everyday effort of working against gravity, the muscles are not used and so they get weak. The solution is clear...

We need to have the astronauts under gravity.

Or something like gravity.

Like, say, 0.5G of thrust from an ion or solar sail drive.

Yeah, that's not a full Earth gravity, but it's better than nothing at all as on the ISS.

For a, let's say, mission to Mars, you thrust towards Mars at 0.5G for half of the trip, then the ship turns around and thrusts away from Mars at 0.5G for the last half of the trip. The rear of the ship would be "down" to the crew. They are only weightless during turnover at the halfway mark. If everything is done right, the ship comes to a stop at Mars. And the astronauts are able to actually move about once they get there.

No muss, no fuss.



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