GyroStim: Helping Man Get to Mars
Research scientists at the University of Colorado/Boulder are investigating strategies for making artificial gravity tolerable during manned missions to Mars --- and a modified GyroStim is providing solutions.
"Astronauts experience bone loss, muscle loss, cardiovascular deconditioning, and more in space. Today, there are a series of piecemeal countermeasures to overcome these issues," said Dr. Torin Clark, an assistant professor in the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences. "But artificial gravity is great because it can overcome all of them at once."
However, a significant drawback to artificial gravity is motion sickness. This is where GyroStim comes in.
Clark worked with GyroStim inventor and CEO, Kevin Maher, to customize a GyroStim that would fulfill the requirements of numerous bioastronautics studies. One of Clark’s studies, Tolerable Acclimation to the Cross-Coupled Illusion through a 10-day, Incremental, Personalized Protocol, was published in the Journal of Vestibular Research, June 2019.
Clark’s research shows that motion sickness resulting from cross-coupled illusion in a short-arm artificial gravity system can be mitigated with a personalized protocol that gradually increases the rate of rotation as the individual’s tolerance increases. This is the same method used with great success by clinicians addressing balance disorders and motion sickness with GyroStim.
“As far as we can tell, essentially anyone can adapt to this stimulus,” Clark said.
The study makes a strong case that artificial gravity could be a realistic option for the future of space travel, including flights to Mars.
The modified GyroStim is referred to as The Human Eccentric Rotator Device (HERD) is an Earth-vertical rotator device to measure human physiological and cognitive responses. The device can be configured with the human seated upright or laying supine. The radius is up to approximately 8 feet with a spin rate of up to 60 rotations per minute (rpm) to create varying levels of centripetal acceleration. The spin rate is computer-controlled with profiles uploaded or adjusted in real-time. Two-way audio communication and infrared video allow for subject monitoring by the operators. In the centrifuge configuration, the device can be used to study approaches to creating artificial gravity to prevent astronaut physiological deconditioning.
(SOURCE: CU Boulder Bioastronautics Laboratory website.)
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"At the University of Colorado-Boulder Bioastronautics Laboratory, we worked with Kevin and his team at GyroStim to procure a modified GyroStim system for our research needs related to human spaceflight. In less than a month, the system was delivered, installed, and we were starting experiments!
As our experimental needs changed over time, Kevin and GyroStim worked with us to modify the control software and hardware to enable each of our requirements. The capabilities of the GyroStim are impressive, spinning at up to 60 rotations per minute, even with large inertia loads, like a human in an off-axis centrifuge configuration.
We have also used the system for experiments with precise motion requirements like non-linear threshold profiles that are very small and need to be reproduced very exactly. In the nearly three years since installing the system, we have used it continuously, where it serves as the primary "workhorse" piece of equipment in the lab. We would estimate over 150 subjects have been tested on the device for well over 1,000 hours of testing time! We look forward continuing to use the GyroStim system and work with Kevin for future modifications and upgrades for our research."
Dr. Torin Clark, Phd, Assistant Professor
Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences.
University of Colorado / Boulder