“After spending several decades and many billions of dollars on programs that have supposedly been moving toward expanding Humanity to the Moon or Mars, we don’t know with any certainty how an extended or permanent stay in Lunar or Martian gravity will affect a Human Being.”
The Space Studies Institute has a history of getting traction on important technical projects that have yet to find owners in the industry, and G-Lab is without a doubt as important a project as any in our past.
The SSI G-Lab is a free flying orbital laboratory on orbit nearby, and not attached to, the International Space Station. This proximity allows for human tending of research animals with a relatively low fuel cost in that resupply craft from the Earth could visit the lab before or after their ISS dockings.
To provide gravity-like forces for prolonged test periods, the entire lab will be spun and/or areas of the lab will use individual centrifuges. In either case, to be determined by cost and risk analysis, various levels of gravity will be simultaneously simulated with test areas providing at the minimum the 1/3rd level of Mars, the 1/6th of the Moon and the full G experienced on the surface of the Earth. A closed environment on the Earth’s surface simulating the environment in the orbiting G-Lab will provide an added reference point.
The Space Studies Institute was founded by Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill, a big advocate of keeping the Human animal at its evolutionary normal of one G except for periods of work or “play,” and it is sometimes brought up that this nod to “Planetary Chauvenism” and its obsession with putting Humans down yet another gravity well was not O’Neill’s core interest. Yes… and No. Even in Professor O’Neill’s mass market popular book “The High Frontier”, which didn’t go into all of the details of later SSI work, O’Neill made it clear that experimentation for figuring out the right and best gravities for Human, animal and plant physiology was crucial to long term In-Space living. Plus, though it is SSI’s long held view that the best place for an expanding technological civilization is not on any planetary surface, the High Frontier Concept is about using the energy and material resources located out of Earth’s restricting gravity well, and thus a certain number of Human Beings are expected in the High Frontier plan to be living at least for some periods on The Moon gathering those resources. Those Human Beings deserve to have some idea of what their bodies – and potentially their families’ bodies – are in for.
Perhaps, as the established government Space organizations and current personalities are hoping, everything is going to be perfectly fine as little Martian children grow to make more little Martian children. But perhaps not. We do not know. And that ignorance should cause significant concern.
Only by testing off-Earth, where the full G of Earth is not affecting the tests themselves, can we find out the truth. And, if there are issues, using that place to test countermeasures could be a lot more cost effective than creating living spaces on the Moon or Mars, dropping people there and only then discovering that expensive changes are required.
Since 2012, when he accepted the Presidency of SSI, Space Industry legend Gary Hudson has used every opportunity to promote the idea of G-Lab but the project is still only in its earliest stage. What is needed at this point is funding for a small group of people who can dedicate themselves to assembling and documenting the requirements and who can deliver an updated analysis of the latest manufacturing and launch options. It’s busy work and it is incredibly important. If you are considering pitching in but feel that you don’t have the technical background, please remember that there is NO current reduced gravity laboratory in orbit… those who do the work will become the first real experts. This is a great opportunity to work on a project that literally could mean life or death to Human Beings.
We urge you to review the resources in this area of the SSI site. They are limited at this moment but there are far more waiting in the wings to be converted into web-friendly formats. Dive in for yourself, look for questions and find answers for them – and give SSI a look at your ideas for G-Lab.
This is an important project because without it all bets are off when it comes to extended or permanent settlement of other planetary surfaces in the Solar System. We can, as it seems most organizations are planning, cross our fingers and ‘just go’ then get our information when the first child is born in an un-natural gravity but for a fraction of the cost and risk we could have some indication of the hazards and an easy place to test mitigation ideas.
Current G-Lab SSI Resources (more on deck):
From the SSI YouTube Channel, here is SSI President Gary C Hudson’s 2015 Space Access presentation on G-Lab: “Gravity is a Massive Problem.” This video lays it all out, the whys and the hows and also the why-nots and how-nots.
Seriously, this video puts it all together so if you haven’t seen it, you really should.