Jenny Hu- Adapting to Artifical Gravity by Melis A. '08
Junior Jenny Hu worked in the MIT Man Vehicle Laboratory to study if people can learn to adapt to living in artificial gravity.
Manned space exploration has been limited to fairly short missions to nearby sites such as the moon and low Earth orbit. For NASA to carry out lengthy manned flights to Mars and beyond, engineers must protect the safety of astronauts by creating new spacecrafts that generate artificial gravity. Without the presence of artificial gravity, astronauts would endure severe bone loss, heart problems, memory loss, and more upon their return to Earth. Artificial gravity can be generated in space by rotating spacecrafts along their center axis, but this environment is very different and takes a while to get used to. It is important for astronauts to adapt to functioning in artificial gravity before their missions to space. Junior Jenny Hu worked in the MIT Man Vehicle Laboratory to study if people can learn to adapt to living in artificial gravity.
Jenny simulated this environment by using a centrifuge that consisted of a two meter bed that a test subject laid in while it was spun at high speeds. Her research focused on the effects of head turns in artificial gravity on the neurovestibular system, which is the inner ear structure that creates a sense of balance. Jenny placed subjects in the centrifuge then collected eye movement data while they spun followed by subjective data about how the subjects felt while performing the head turns. She found that people can learn to adapt to artificial gravity.
Jenny, an Aeronautics and Astronautics major, found this UROP on the UROP website. The Man Vehicle Laboratory often hires UROPs and is a great place for a first research experience. Jenny says that it was great to have hands-on experience in the lab to complement her class work. She particularly enjoyed being spun in the centrifuge and she found that she did not get motion sickness. The other researchers in the lab took advantage of her natural adaptability to artificial gravity and used her as a test subject for many experiments. In the future, Jenny hopes to develop new vehicles for the exploration of Mars.