We would not have noticed the presence of an invisible force holding us to the Earth’s surface if Newton did not explain it. We have studied that all bodies have gravity and they attract each other. Then, why do we feel weightless in space when we go beyond the gravitational force of the Earth? Due to the increase in the distance of an astronaut from the Earth, the force of gravity reduces to almost zero. This is why we have seen them floating in the International Space Station (ISS) or while taking spacewalks.
Now the real question is whether we can create gravity. If yes, then how to create artificial gravity? Well, there are scientific ways that can help us make gravity using the simplest developments and technology. Let us find out how!
This might sound like nothing but a part of the science fiction story plot. We have seen astronauts floating in outer space but walking inside a spaceship in the movies. It means there is gravity inside the spaceship.
Gravitation is a transferable force. It is also not possible to generate gravity that strong in our body to stick to the surface of a spaceship. How will this be possible then? Well, there is a legit way of generating gravity in space. For this, we need to enter a little deeper into the world of physics.
There are two forces existing simultaneously when a body spins or revolves. These forces are called the centripetal and centrifugal forces. Let us consider an example to understand these two forces.
When you are sitting inside a car and it takes a turn, you will feel that your upper part of the body is moving in the opposite direction. Imagine a car driving around a rotary circle. You will continuously feel the same force in the opposite direction until the car takes a linear path. This is the basic concept of making such forces with rotational motion.
The scientists at NASA have developed an official prototype that can generate gravity in space out of nowhere. It can be called the artificial gravity generator.
Generating Artificial Gravity
Also Read: How Astronauts Live in Space?
Imagine a huge ferry’s wheel rotating in its own axis with people in the capsules. Imagine this structure rotating in outer space where there is no significant gravity to feel. People in the capsules or cabins of this structure will experience both the centripetal and centrifugal forces due to the rotational motion of this wheel. This is how to make gravity in outer space.
The interesting part is that the speed of this rotational motion can control the amount of gravity we need to stabilise our bodies. Here is another example to help you correlate with the speed and force of artificial gravitation.
When a car turns in any direction very fast, you will find your body feeling a higher amount of force. As the speed of the turning car increases, this force you are experiencing will also increase. You will be surprised to know that a Formula 1 car driver can experience up to 5 times the natural gravity when he applies brakes. When he accelerates, it increases to two times. It increases 6 times when he takes a turn in a corner!
Hence, the rotational motion is directly proportional to the force of artificial gravitation produced in outer space.
Now that you have understood how we can make artificial gravity in space, we can clearly say that a rotating spacecraft will be the best idea to do so. In space, the interference from other forces will not be there except for friction. This is why rotating a spacecraft will not be highly energy-consuming.
Here is a list of 3 ways to make artificial gravity in space.
Centrifugal and Centripetal Acceleration
This is a concept we discussed in the earlier sections. This is an effective way that can generate artificial gravity in space using simple rotation motion.
Accelerating in a Linear Motion
If a spaceship is constantly accelerating, we can generate an artificial acceleration that can serve as artificial gravity.
This is just a theory and scientists are working on it. There is no need to accelerate and waste energy or rotate constantly as both ways can cause physiological hazards or accidents. Then, how do spaceships make artificial gravity? The best method is to pull the astronauts downward. This method will omit the need for creating an acceleration using such methods.
The research going on in the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) in Switzerland proves the presence of antimatter and its gravitational features that are opposite to matter. If the experiment is successful, we can create gravity without the need for motion to create one.
We feel the natural gravitational force pulling us towards the centre of the Earth. If we use rotational motion or accelerated linear motion to create artificial gravity, we will feel the force in a particular direction.
It might not be the same as on Earth. The Earth is a huge planet and the gravitational force can be felt in a bigger sense. A spaceship is small resulting in the formation of artificial gravity more focused on a particular direction. Hence, it will not be possible to move properly practically in a spaceship with artificial gravity.
This is why the 3rd method of creating artificial gravity can be a game changer. To this date, our spaceships do not have the technology to create artificial gravity. Research is underway to develop ideas and methods to create gravity that will pull astronauts downwards, not in the opposite direction of a motion only. When we succeed, our astronauts will be able to control the artificial gravitational field inside a spaceship. This is how we can hopefully create artificial gravity.