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There are many ways to produce artificial gravitational effects, such as a rotating spacecraft, linear acceleration, or harnessing magnetism. Possibly there are other ways to produce gravity that have yet to be discovered.

When we talk about sending people to places beyond Mars, the lack of gravity quickly becomes a problem. It seems that this (along with faster transportation) is one of the biggest obstacles to outer solar system and deep space exploration by humans.

So, what work is currently being done to explore, develop, and test different methods of producing real or artificial gravity?

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    $\begingroup$ Rotation is the only practical method given current or near-term foreseeable technology. Linear acceleration requires accelerating at a substantial fraction of 1 G for a long time, something current engines can't do. We don't have materials with high enough density to generate a significant gravitational field -- and if we did, moving the ship would become impractical. Magnetism has plenty of problems of its own, and has not been applied on a scale larger than a mouse. $\endgroup$ – Keith Thompson Jan 18 '14 at 3:12
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    $\begingroup$ JAXA built the Centrifuge Accommodations Module ready for launch to the ISS. But it was canceled in 2005 and is now a museum piece. I think that the powerful space medical community doesn't have incentive to replace their endless research into the many diverse health problems in microgravity with a simple technical solution. Robert Zubrin has drawn a parallel to the WW2 research of oxygen deprivation of pilots at high altitude, an unsolvable health problem, which was eliminated by the use of an oxygen mask or pressurized cabin. $\endgroup$ – LocalFluff Nov 25 '14 at 10:55
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Space Studies Institute started by Gerald Oneil (Of Oneil colonies fame) has been pushing hard for a large centrifuge module in orbit somehow, somewhere.

The point they make is that we know lots about 0G, lots of 1G and literally nothing about in between. I.e. To know the answer of how much gravity is needed to minimize changes, we need to experiment.

And he points out you need two centrifuges. One at 1G, and one at the different level, so you run all your experiments 3 times at the same time. At 1G, at 0G, and different levels of G.

Gary Hudson, president of SSI did a great podcast with David Livingstone of the Space Show, on this topic.

In the short term, the answer is very little research has been done. The Centrifuge Accomodation Module (CAM) for the ISS was cancelled in 2005. It was designed to work on these sorts of experiments on a large scale.

Nanoracks has a centrifuge on the ISS right now. From that page it notes " The centrifuge, previously flown on a number of STS missions, can simulate Earth, Moon and Mars gravity." Looking at the image they show on that page, it is pretty small. Too small for a mouse even.

NanoRacks Centrifuge

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  • $\begingroup$ They didn't put mice in that centrifuge, did they? While that might sound kind of wonky, it seems like that's the logical first step... $\endgroup$ – AlanSE Jan 17 '14 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ @AlanSE I forget how big the current Centrifuge on ISS is. My memory is that it is a nano-rack experiment so fairly slow. $\endgroup$ – geoffc Jan 17 '14 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ See the Quails in Space story. There was a centrifuge for a better hatchling development. $\endgroup$ – horsh Jan 17 '14 at 21:53
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Some engineering studies done by Joseph Carroll at "Tether Application Inc". The big space players don't seem to be very interested. Small enterpreneurs and enthusiasts seem to lead the way for space travel, now as 100 years ago. At least someone does something.

A 2 hour sound presentation and discussion of Joe Carroll's ideas, including a tether station with the centrifugal gravity of Mars, Moon and what he thinks is the smallest somewhat useful gravity at 0.06g: http://archived.thespaceshow.com/shows/1552-BWB-2011-05-03.mp3

Powerpoints to the talk above: http://spaceshowclassroom.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/artificial-gravity-iac2010-presentation-revised-2011april30.pdf

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