Magazine article The Futurist

Weightlessness and Nuclear Power in Space

Magazine article The Futurist

Weightlessness and Nuclear Power in Space

Article excerpt

Weightlessness and Nuclear Power in Space

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's plans for a lunar base and expeditions to Mars seem "reasonable," but several vital issues still must be addressed, reports a National Research Council committee. These issues include developing artificial gravity, replacing the space-shuttle fleet with new vehicles, and possibly using nuclear-propulsion technology.

Weightlessness will be a key factor in the success of future missions to the moon and Mars. Experience from past missions indicates that long-term weightlessness is an unacceptable risk for mission crews, even with exercise and other countermeasures, according to the report. The return to a gravity environment after adaption to weightlessness is problematical, especially for a mission to Mars.

"The questions of whether artificial gravity will be required and, if so, how it will be provided are critical," says the committee. "The nation has no strategy for research to determine the need for or provide artificial gravity." As one option, the committee recommends testing the human physiological response to varying levels of gravity in a special research facility at the planned NASA space station in low-Earth orbit (LEO). …

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