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lrifkin's picture

Motion Sickness

Class discussion this week peaked my interest in motion sickness. Although I myself generally do not experience any type of motion sickness, I have family and friends who do. I have watched curiously as they have needed to sit in the front of a bus, open a window, or get out of a moving vehicle completely.

This week I read an article about Dr. Stephen Hawking, who has studied gravity and plans to experience a world without it in the near future. Dr. Hawking had plans to go into space. However, first, he has plans to participate in a space flight simulation of sorts.

The company that provides these simulation experiences is called Zero Gravity Corporation and has been taking “thrill seekers” on this specific ride since 2004 for $3,500 a trip. However, the company was founded in 1993 and since then has entertained about 2,500 customers. What interested me about the Zero Gravity Corporation, and about their trips, is the fact that since their first trip only 1 or 2 percent of their clients have become “spacesick.” This means that despite being nicknamed the “vomit comet,” relatively few people experience motion sickness on these flight simulations.

Although I can understand motion sickness on land and on the sea, I am confused by motion sickness and space travel. In class we discussed the fact that astronauts usually feel extreme motion sickness within the first few hours after take off. After those first few hours the motion sickness generally subsides and the astronauts are able to comfortably work, explore, and relax. When in this simulator, and when in a spaceship, individuals are obviously unable to view any movement. However, are they able to sense movement in any other way? Does gravity affect the way in which human beings sense movement, or do not sense movement? Does a lack of gravity eventually eliminate any disagreement between the sensory input and the corollary discharge signals sent to an individual’s brain that could cause motion sickness? Why are astronauts only get “spacesick” during the first few hours of flight?


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