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8/19/2008
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'TEMPO 3' Artificial Gravity Satellite On Mars Society's To-Do List

NASA carried out tethered artificial gravity-generation experiments during the Gemini program in the 1960s, but never got back to it in the Apollo, shuttle, or space station eras.

A tethered spacecraft will spin through increasingly hi-fidelity testing in a lab, in zero gravity, and eventually space, as part of the next project chosen by the Mars Society.

The Mars Society announced Tuesday that the Tethered Experiment for Mars inter-Planetary Operations (TEMPO 3 or TEMPO cubed) is the favorite proposal chosen from members' ideas for the group's next project. The project aims to supplement research on the feasibility of long-term space flight for humans.

Mars Society president Robert Zubrin said that while space agencies around the world have "chosen to study the effects of zero gravity on humans with no end in sight," his group seeks to develop technology to provide humans with gravity in space.

"Similar problems existed in the past, when aircrews flew at high altitude and low oxygen levels," he said in a news announcement. "The technological solution of providing oxygen was frowned upon by aviation doctors in favor of trying to 'negate the effect' of the low oxygen through medication. Today, flight crews use oxygen at high altitudes, and we expect astronauts to travel with gravity."

Tom Hill, a founding member of the group, submitted the winning proposal, which outlined a CubeSat nanosatellite platform. School groups and others seeking inexpensive, small, fast, and reliable satellites often choose that platform, the Mars Society said. The details about the craft's configuration and the project's schedule have not yet been determined. Hill will manage the project.

"The flight hardware will be as simple as possible to maximize our chances for success," he said. "We're not the first to do this. NASA carried out tethered artificial gravity-generation experiments during the Gemini program in the 1960s, but never got back to it in the Apollo, shuttle, or space station eras. Artificial gravity is important for a Mars-bound crew, so we will take the concept forward."

Mars Society members voted on several proposals online and a steering committee chose Hill's proposal over others, which included Mars educational centers, prototype hardware development for a Mars sample return mission, and simple satellite-based positioning for use on Mars.

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