The Human Centrifuge
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- van Loon, J.J.W.A. Microgravity Sci. Technol (2009) 21: 203. doi:10.1007/s12217-008-9062-z
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Life on Earth has developed at unit gravity, 9.81 m/s2, which was a major factor especially when vertebrates emerged from water onto land in the late Devonian, some 375 million years ago. But how would nature have evolved on a larger planet? We are able to address this question simply in experiments using centrifuges. Based on these studies we have gained valuable insights in the physiological process in plants and animals. They adapt to a new steady state suitable for the high-g environments applied. Information on mammalian adaptations to hyper-g is interesting or may be even vital for human space exploration programs. It has been shown in long duration animal hypergravity studies, ranging from snails, rats to primates, that various structures like muscles, bones, neuro-vestibular, or the cardio-vascular system are affected. However, humans have never been exposed to a hyper-g environment for long durations. Centrifuge studies involving humans are mostly in the order of hours. The current work on human centrifuges are all focused on short arm systems to apply short periods of artificial gravity in support of long duration space missions in ISS or to Mars. In this paper we will address the possible usefulness of a large human centrifuge on Earth. In such a centrifuge a group of humans can be exposed to hypergravity for, in principle, an unlimited period of time like living on a larger planet. The input from a survey under scientists working in the field of gravitational physiology, but also other disciplines, will be discussed.