Lack of Gravity in Space, the Troubles and the Solution

As we know, in the vacuum of space, if you are far enough away from or orbiting a large planet, you are also far enough away from gravity. This is where the absence of gravity poses a problem for humanity (and all living things)

11 mins read

The zero-gravity environment may seem pleasant at first when you are floating in the air, flying and escaping, but it causes serious damage to the human body afterwards.

The “weightless” environment in space looks very attractive, yes, but it has serious negative effects on the human body. Our bodies are built to cope with gravity on the Earth’s surface, and without gravity (and hence weight), over time our muscles lose much of their function. For example, our heart, which is made up entirely of muscle tissue, would not have to fight gravity to pump blood around the body, so it would have to exert less and less effort, resulting in less and less muscle density in the heart.

In the same way, the muscles in our arms and legs use much less force and energy to move. Similar to our heart, the muscles in our arms and legs become progressively weaker, even losing a significant part of our muscle mass “out of necessity”.

Since there is no gravity in outer space, you may not care about the loss of muscle. But when you return to Earth, you become a person who cannot even stand up straight. Even walking and lifting objects weighing only a few kilograms becomes an enormous effort. You will get tired quickly and out of breath.

The lack of gravity, which constantly pulls the blood pumped by the heart to the legs, results in blood pooling in the upper body, especially in the head. Imagine standing upside down on Earth and feeling the blood pooling in your brain – imagine experiencing this all the time. This pooling of blood and fluid in the head can cause serious problems such as hypertension and eye disorders. Not to mention the constant headaches and nausea you may experience, and the constantly swollen veins in your head and neck.

Bones are also affected by this problem of weightlessness. Our bones, which do not bear any weight, gradually weaken because they are not needed and bone mass decreases significantly. Bones may even become deformed due to this weakening.

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This bone loss is similar to osteoporosis, a disease experienced by older people on Earth. Bone tissue is constantly weakening. In fact, astronauts lose up to 40% of their bone tissue during long space missions. The natural consequence is that their bones break very easily when they return to earth.

Because the vertebrae of the back are separated and weakened in weightlessness, they are suddenly overloaded when returning to Earth. This can cause excruciating back and lower back pain.

Lack of Gravity in Space, the Troubles and the Solution
Astronauts who stay in space in zero gravity for a while and return to earth have weakened leg muscles that cannot support them. Therefore, they have difficulty walking for a while.

While this is not much of a problem during a stay in space, when astronauts return to Earth after a long space journey, they find it difficult to walk and move on their own.

Therefore, astronauts have to follow a rigorous exercise and nutrition program both during their time in orbit and when they return to earth to regain lost muscle and bone tissue.

You have all seen the astronauts on the International Space Station floating in weightlessness. In fact, the gravitational force acting on the human body on this station, 300 kilometers above the Earth, is not much less than that acting on us on Earth. But because the space station does not stand still and revolves around the Earth at great speed, the inhabitants of the station are left without gravity.

To put it better, the space station orbiting the Earth is actually in a constant “falling” motion, so that its occupants do not feel the effect of gravity, even though they are very close to the Earth. Imagine that you are inside a rapidly falling object, or that you are riding a gondola at an amusement park. On the way down, you get stuck to the back of the seat, or something like that.

It is possible to achieve a similar effect without leaving the Earth. If an airplane at high altitude dives towards the earth at a suitable speed, gravity will lose its effect for those on board, even if only for a short time. Today, there are many organizations where you can have this experience, even in an airplane. In fact, it has almost become an ordinary entertainment.

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Let’s talk about how to overcome gravity in space: At the moment, we don’t know what causes gravity and how we can prevent or recreate it. Therefore, the only “gravity-generating method” we have is to rotate the vehicle we are in at a certain speed around itself.

This is a very simple method. There is no need to try to rediscover America by pointing the ear backwards when there are simple ways of doing things. Edison would certainly have liked to invent LED light sources instead of incandescent wire lamps if he could have.

But in those days, the easiest and simplest way to get light from electricity was the incandescent lamp. And the incandescent lamp lasted us for 100 years, revolutionizing the way we lived. Now we don’t like it because we have invented much better and more efficient LED lamps.

Lack of Gravity in Space, the Troubles and the Solution

Due to the principle of conservation of momentum (colloquially known as inertia or centrifugal force), the occupants of a rotating vehicle are pushed against the walls of the vehicle, depending on the speed of rotation, as if there were gravity. Well, let’s not exactly call it pushing, but it is enough to know that they are practically fixed there. You know the example that is always given. If you turn a tea tray quickly, neither the cups will tip over nor the tea in the cups will spill. That is exactly what we are talking about.

The most basic laws of physics say this: If an object is in motion, it wants to keep moving. If it is standing still, it tends to continue to stand still. You may have noticed that when you are in a speeding car and you change direction, you are thrown in the opposite direction. This is because the matter that makes up your body wants to maintain its position. The car underneath you changes direction, but you try to resist this change of direction.

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The result is that the car goes one way and you go the other. This is a common cause of death in traffic accidents: When the crashed car stops suddenly, your body, which is moving with it, wants to keep moving. If you are not wearing your seat belt, this “will to keep moving” can result in you being thrown out of the window and killed.

We just gave the example of “changing direction” above. If you are in a vehicle that is constantly changing direction, in other words making a smooth circular motion, your body will constantly resist this change of direction. Naturally, you will be subjected to a constant skidding in the direction opposite to the axis of rotation of the vehicle. The practical benefit of this yaw is that, if you have the right speed, you have the chance to replicate the gravitational pull of the earth.

You can use this effect to build many different types of space stations and vehicles. For example, in a wheel-shaped station, the outward-facing surface of the wheels can provide you with the necessary gravity mimicry.

If you want to do this in a spacecraft, you simply design the spacecraft as a cylinder. As the vehicle moves in a perpendicular direction, the cylinder that makes up the body rotates around itself at an appropriate speed. This creates an artificial gravity on the inner surface of the cylinder.

Lack of Gravity in Space, the Troubles and the Solution

In the future, such space stations will be built to solve the problem of weightlessness in space. For now, such a project has not been implemented because it would be too expensive and technically problematic.

However, as we said, in the future, when “more and more people will be in space for longer periods of time”, such “self-orbiting” space stations will inevitably be built. We just need to improve our technology a bit more, that’s all.

FİKRİKADİM

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