Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Keeping upright: How much gravity is enough?

Date:
September 3, 2014
Source:
York University
Summary:
Keeping upright in a low-gravity environment is not easy, and NASA documents abound with examples of astronauts falling on the lunar surface. Now, a new study suggests that the reason for all these moon mishaps might be because its gravity isn't sufficient to provide astronauts with unambiguous information on which way is 'up'.

The experimental setup. (A) Participants lay on a human centrifuge with their feet out so that centripetal force from the centrifuge produced a centripetal force simulating gravity along the long axis of the body. (B) They viewed a screen mounted above their heads which presented a scene tilted at 112° relative to their bodies. The direction signaled by each cue to upright is indicated by arrow: red, vision; green, simulated gravity and blue, the body. (C) Thus, the three vectors involved in determining the perceptual upright (body, gravity and vision) could be dissociated.
Credit: Harris et al; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106207.g001

Keeping upright in a low-gravity environment is not easy, and NASA documents abound with examples of astronauts falling on the lunar surface. Now, a new study by an international team of researchers led by York University professors Laurence Harris and Michael Jenkin, published today in PLOS ONE, suggests that the reason for all these moon mishaps might be because its gravity isn't sufficient to provide astronauts with unambiguous information on which way is "up."

"The perception of the relative orientation of oneself and the world is important not only to balance, but also for many other aspects of perception including recognizing faces and objects and predicting how objects are going to behave when dropped or thrown," says Harris. "Misinterpreting which way is up can lead to perceptual errors and threaten balance if a person uses an incorrect reference point to stabilize themselves."

Using a short-arm centrifuge provided by the European Space Agency, the international team simulated gravitational fields of different strengths, and used a York-invented perceptual test to measure the effectiveness of gravity in determining the perception of up. The team found that the threshold level of gravity needed to just influence a person's orientation judgment was about 15 per cent of the level found on Earth -- very close to that on the moon.

The team also found that Martian gravity, at 38 per cent of that on Earth, should be sufficient for astronauts to orient themselves and maintain balance on any future manned missions to Mars.

"If the brain does not sense enough gravity to determine which way is up, astronauts may get disoriented, which can lead to errors like flipping switches the wrong way or moving the wrong way in an emergency," says Jenkin. "Therefore, it's crucial to understand how the direction of up is established and to establish the relative contribution of gravity to this direction before journeying to environments with gravity levels different to that of Earth."

This work builds upon results obtained in long-duration microgravity by Harris and Jenkin and other members of York's Centre for Vision Research on board the International Space Station during the Bodies in the Space Environment project, funded by the Canadian Space Agency.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by York University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Laurence R. Harris, Rainer Herpers, Thomas Hofhammer, Michael Jenkin. How Much Gravity Is Needed to Establish the Perceptual Upright? PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (9): e106207 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106207

Cite This Page:

York University. "Keeping upright: How much gravity is enough?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 September 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140903163538.htm>.
York University. (2014, September 3). Keeping upright: How much gravity is enough?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140903163538.htm
York University. "Keeping upright: How much gravity is enough?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140903163538.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) — Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

NASA Picks Boeing and SpaceX to Ferry Astronauts

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — NASA is a giant step closer to launching Americans again from U.S. soil. It has announced it has picked Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station in the next few years. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA to Resume Human Space Flight, Focus on Mars

NASA to Resume Human Space Flight, Focus on Mars

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 16, 2014) — NASA awards contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to ferry astronauts to the international space station, saying the move will allow the space agency to focus on more ambitious missions like sending humans to Mars. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins