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What’s the Maximum Gravity We Could Survive?

Ever since we managed to put men on the moon, we've been looking for other places for people to go. Then bigger and better telescopes led us to exoplanets, those outside our solar system. Somewhere along the way, we switched from thinking of pure exploration to colonizing other planets. But our bodies were built for Earth. Even if we find an exoplanet with an oxygen-rich atmosphere, liquid water, and tolerable temperatures, would we be able to live with a different level of gravity?

If its gravity is too strong our blood will be pulled down into our legs, our bones might break, and we could even be pinned helplessly to the ground.

Finding the gravitational limit of the human body is something that’s better done before we land on a massive new planet. Now, in a paper published on the pre-print server arXiv, three physicists, claim that the maximum gravitational field humans could survive long-term is four-and-a-half times the gravity on Earth.  

Read how they figured that out at Discover magazine. -via Digg

(Image credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)


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I hear of people marching some distance carrying their own weight in a backpack, so slow difficult movement should be above 2g. They seem to be assuming a person would train for this, so it is not like a random Joe is just dumped there and expected to walk around.

3g is often cited as a limit for space craft in situations where astronauts are expected to reach controls above them from a reclined position and that is not an absolute limit, but has some safety margin.

The paper calculates 4.6g max for walking using numbers world-record log carry, and later says 3.5g is more reasonable for a trained athlete. That doesn't seem that unreasonable to me, even if I would guess it is a bit on the high side.

In a reclined position, people can handle quite a bit more, so using an appropriately designed wheel chair they could go probably to almost twice that...
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At four and a half times the gravity, the contents of a full bladder would weigh in at over four and a half pounds; a poop, a bit less. Spacefarers will either have to develop sphincter muscles the size of doughnuts or wear a diaper with suspenders.
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