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Space Systems Lab
University of Maryland

Ballasted Partial Gravity

John Mularski
Graduate Research Assistant

As NASA prepares to send humans back to the Moon by the end of the next decade, research is required to develop the systems the astronauts will use on their return to Earth’s nearest neighbor.  At the Space Systems Lab (SSL) we are developing a way to simulate lunar gravity in order to investigate working on the Moon. 

The system being developed consists of a full body harness worn by the subject to which various weights can be attached to provide the correct weight.  The subject’s own body weight is offset by their buoyancy in the water.  The weights are placed on the front and back of the torso as well as on the upper legs.  This keeps the subject’s center of gravity (CG) in the same approximate position as on land.
Previous research has shown that this type of simulation is well suited for quasi-stationary studies.  These studies minimize the effect that water drag has on the subject’s movement.  Studies such as ingress/egress hatch design, backpack CG location, and load lifting lend themselves to this type of simulation.

There are two other major ways of simulating partial gravity: parabolic flight and spring offset systems.  They both eliminate the water drag, but add their own drawbacks.  Parabolic flight provides true partial gravity, but only for very short durations.  Spring offset systems can be run for as long as necessary, but limit the degrees of freedom the subject has.

Project advisor:
Dr. David Akin
Lead graduate student:
John Mularski

This Ballasted Partial Gravity Research is under development at the University of Maryland Space Systems Laboratory, part of the Aerospace Engineering Department and the A. James Clark School of Engineering.

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