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These centrifugal moon towers could be key to life off-planet

Spinning skyscrapers might produce about 1G at widest point

Vid Japanese scientists are putting a new spin on human life in outer space with a proposal for centrifugal skyscrapers on the Moon and Mars.

Kyoto University academics and folks at Kajima Construction, one of the largest building firms in Japan, have partnered on the concept, which they call "Luna Glass" and "Mars Glass." 

If constructed, the glass towers would stand 400 meters tall (roughly the height of the Empire State Building in New York City) and 100 meters wide. To provide the gravity we're used to on our home world, the tower would spin on its central axis at a rate of one rotation every 20 seconds. The researchers said the towers would produce about 1G at their widest point, the same gravitational force as on Earth. 

People would live on the inner walls of the tower, much like the Dyson Sphere featured in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Halo rings of the eponymous game series, a ring-like habitat considered by NASA, or any other number of science-fiction and proposed non-fiction contraptions relying on centrifugal force to generate artificial gravity.

The inside of Luna Glass

Life on the inside of Luna Glass

"As space life becomes more realistic, low gravity on places like the lunar surface begin to be regarded as a problem," the researchers said in an article announcing the concept (which was automatically translated). The team said low-gravity research on humans has been limited to adults, and that research has made it clear how much of a problem zero- or reduced-gravity has on human health.

According to NASA, astronauts in space lose muscle mass more quickly, are at increased risk for kidney stones and calcium deficiency, can experience vision problems, develop enlarged brains, and lose 1 to 1.5 percent of the mineral density in weight-bearing bones per month. The Japanese team takes those concerns one step further: if people are going to be living in space, what is low gravity going to do to childhood development, and how will it complicate birth?

"We consider an artificial gravity living facility that can generate [1G to be] … the core technology for human beings to advance into space," the Japanese team said.

Here's a video of what the Mars tower might look like, according to the Kyoto eggheads:

Youtube Video

In addition to developing the glass towers, the Kyoto/Kajima team said its conceptual view of space living also includes two other components: a "core biome" that consists of the minimal natural materials needed to supply a colony with food, clothing and shelter; and the "hexatrack," a train-like artificial gravity transport system designed to keep Moon- and Mars-bound colonists grounded during a long journey. 

Yosuke Yamashiki, director at the Kyoto University division working on the project, said that while countries like the US and the United Arab Emirates are working toward Moon and Mars colonization, they have yet to touch on the three concepts his team has developed. 

"These three pillars that we propose are core technologies that are not in the development plans of other countries and are indispensable for ensuring the realization of human space colonization in the future," Yamashiki said. ®

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