Work has begun on building an artificial gravity device for long-duration NASA space missions, such as a trip to Mars.

The artificial gravity system is a 4m (13ft)-wide upright propeller like machine that would have two people on either side of it. It would spin individuals weighing up to 90kg (198lb) to a maximum speed of 40rpm, creating around 2.5g at the feet.

On a long-duration space mission, astronauts would use the device to limit bone loss and muscle wastage. The work is being undertaken at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

One of the UK scientists working with them is Dr Kevin Fong, a co-director of University College London's Centre for Aviation Space and Extreme Environment Medicine (CASE). He says: "The [US space] agency is actively considering it as a potential solution to many of the problems associated with long-duration space flight. The astronauts would use it like a drug, taking it briefly on a regular basis."

With centrifuge-generated gravity, the force experienced reduces dramatically over a short distance. With Fong's team's device, the head feels no pull while the feet feel over two gravities.

Source: Flight International