When I was a kid I dreamed of being an astronaut, little did I think at the time that I would wind up leading expeditions into the unexplored country of aging.
Even so, stories about spaceflight still catch my eye.
I liked this one because the scientists have questioned what seem to be the foundations of spaceflight.
Nice thinking, now we will have to wait and see if it works…
Why build a human cannonball instead of a more conventional rocket?
Traditionally, astronauts are launched into space lying on their backs. This means that you have high g-tolerance [can withstand large accelerations], but it’s very expensive because it needs a relatively large rocket booster. What we’ve done, which is very controversial, is to say, “Let’s put this man standing.”
This gives us a lot of benefits. The rocket becomes a lot smaller – it’s only 65 centimetres in diameter – and therefore lighter. Second, it gives the astronaut the visual experience of leaving Earth and travelling up through the atmosphere. This has never happened in the history of space flight.
But how does the standing astronaut survive?
We can choose to design our rocket engines to expose the standing astronaut only to limited g-loads, on the order of 3 to 4 g [three to four times the effect of Earth’s gravity] – and only during the first 20 seconds of the flight. That’s less than you expose yourself to in a rollercoaster.
We have already used a “human centrifuge” here in Copenhagen to expose people to 5.5 to 6.5 gs. It was crystal clear that this type of g load, at this level and for this period of time, is relatively uncritical to our astronaut.
Will this be the smallest spacecraft ever to carry an astronaut?
You should consider our spacecraft as something totally different. The vessel should be considered like clothes, and the nose-cone a helmet that protects you from the vacuum of space. It’s a very different kind of space flight; the person is submerged in the cosmos.
Read more here