Artificial gravity in space and in medical research

J Gravit Physiol. 1994 May;1(1):P19-22.


The history of manned space flight has repeatedly documented the fact that prolonged sojourn in space causes physiological deconditioning. Physiological deterioration has raised a legitimate concern about man's ability to adequately perform in the course of long missions and even the possibility of leading to circumstances threatening survival. One of the possible countermeasures of physiological deconditioning, theoretically more complete than others presently used since it affects all bodily systems, is artificial gravity. Space stations and spacecrafts can be equipped with artificial gravity, but is artificial gravity necessary? The term "necessary" must be qualified because a meaningful answer to the question depends entirely on further defining the purpose of space travel. If man intends to stay only temporarily in space, then he must keep himself in good physical condition so as to be able to return to earth or to land on any other planetary surface without undue exposure to major physiological problems resulting from transition through variable gravitational fields. Such a situation makes artificial gravity highly desirable, although perhaps not absolutely necessary in the case of relative short exposure to microgravity, but certainly necessary in interplanetary flight and planetary landings. If the intent is to remain indefinitely in space, to colonize space, then artificial gravity may not be necessary, but in this case the consequences of long term effects of adaptation to weightlessness will have to be weighed against the biological evolutionary outcomes that are to be expected. At the moment, plans for establishing permanent colonies in space seem still remote. More likely, the initial phase of exploration of the uncharted solar system will take place through successive, scope limited, research ventures ending with return to earth. This will require man to be ready to operate in gravitational fields of variable intensity. Equipping spacecrafts or space stations with some means of artificial gravity in this initial phase is, therefore, necessary without question. In a strict sense artificial gravity is conceived as a means of replacing natural gravity in space by the centripetal acceleration generated by some sort of rotating device. Rotating devices create an inertial force which has effects on bodies similar to those caused by terrestrial gravity, but artificial gravity by a rotation device is not the same as terrestrial gravity, as we shall see. Present research in artificial gravity for space exploration is projected in two main directions: artificial gravity for whole space stations and artificial gravity produced by short arm centrifuges designed for human use in space.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Centrifugation / instrumentation
  • Centrifugation / methods*
  • Gravity, Altered*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Research / trends*
  • Rotation*
  • Space Flight / instrumentation*
  • Spacecraft / instrumentation
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / physiopathology
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / therapy
  • Weightlessness
  • Weightlessness Countermeasures*