The human centrifuge has been a staple of space cinema and Bond movies for decades, and they’re still used to prepare astronauts and pilots for the effects of gravity shifts. But this Polish version has an extra-special trick up its sleeve, to to make your guts spin almost as fast as it does.
The centrifuge is rare, explains the ESA, because it has an active ‘boogie’ gondola. Nothing to do with dancing; merely the technical name for the the fact that the pod on the end can rotate independently. That means that the centrifuge can inflict strong positive g-forces, then transition to negative ones by turning upside down.
What does that feel like? Kjetil Wormnes, an ESA mechatronics engineer who recently took a spin (sorry), explains:
“The transitions between the different phases, and in particular from 0 to 2 g was the worst part. This was the time when the boogie flipped upside down while the centrifuge was still rotating. The other bad time was just as the centrifuge braked to stop. For the rest, it was no problem, so long as I didn’t move my head.”
Sadly, he doesn’t explain what did happen when he moved his head. Wormnes was training for future missions, on which he’ll test a deployable net for the capture of derelict satellites. Clearly, anything must be endured to save us from space junk. [ESA]