Keeping an astronaut
crew in tip-top shape during lengthy treks to and from distant
Mars may demand portable gravity. There’s need for long-duration
space travelers to counter such debilitating effects as muscle
atrophy, bone loss, cardiovascular deconditioning and balance disorders
-- effects seen in humans as they cope with stints in microgravity.
Over the decades, artificial gravity research has been an on-again,
off-again proposition. But in the last few years, and propelled
by NASA’s new Moon, Mars and beyond exploration mandate,
artificial gravity studies are now being developed, this time with
a new spin.
Beneath the lolling
terrain of Kentucky, Illinois and Virginia lies chemically tortured
bedrock that combines with farming practices to wreak havoc on
drinking water. Armed with electronics this past summer, Benjamin
Schwartz drove his four-wheel-drive truck out to a field in McCoy,
Virginia, during Hurricane Ivan to do battle. First, he hooked
his laptop and an electricity sensor to his truck battery. Then
he sank metal pins into the ground and wired them up to create
an electrical field under the soil.
It may be tiny,
but a new microgenerator developed at Georgia Tech can now produce
enough power to run a small electronic device, like a cell phone,
and may soon be able to power a laptop.The microgenerator is about
10 millimeters wide, or about the size of a dime. When coupled
with a similarly sized gas-fueled microturbine (or jet) engine,
the system, called a microengine, has the potential to deliver
more energy and last 10 times longer than a conventional battery.