ASI W9700491r1.0

Moon Miners' Manifesto

#98 September 1996

Section the Artemis Data Book


MMM #98 Article 1: Space Olympics Part 2

The "SPACE GAMES" of 2046: The Sesquicentennial Olympics:
An Exercise in Speculation

[Part 2 of 2]

by Peter Kokh, with reader input invited!

Olympic Events on the Moon

Back to gravity, gravity with a difference. All else being equal, people will jump and balls will bounce slower and higher. It will be harder to accelerate and maneuver. Momentum will be Earth-normal as it is independent of gravity. Traction, however, is largely gravity dependent, and will be proportionately reduced, putting a great strain on ankles. Potential rebound-assisting surfaces like walls, even ceilings, may become as import as floors in the play of many sports as well as in gymnastics. Highly banked courts or zones may be common. Because momentum is unchanged while weight is cut to a sixth, carelessness by novices and newcomers is likely to result in an epidemic of impact-related sports injuries.

Early sports facilities may utilize spherical, cylindrical, and toroidal rigid-inflatables hybrid structures similar to those that may become the norm in zero-G locations. However, the early availability of building materials manufactured on site and development of architectures and construction methods appropriate to them may bring down the cost of pressurized sports volume appreciably. This should allow the reemergence of substantial spectator gallery areas and rectangular courts, as well as development of sports and field and track events that require more space for satisfactory play and/or execution.

On the Moon, then, we are likely to see a renewed round of experimentation with the development of second generation Olympic events as the reduced cost of volume, and greater variety of arena configuration becomes a possibility.

Yet field size combined with a scale-up owing to the six-fold reduced gravity militates against any attempts to "translate" or transpose close caricatures of our baseball, football (either), golf, etc. and other field-intensive sports.

Standardization of smaller multi-purpose arenas will encourage the earlier spread of additional similar facilities in new lunar towns and settlements and outposts. This means increased completion and faster maturation of the sport or event, and an earlier rise of play to respectably Olympic levels. And that, after all, is our goal.

In sixthweight, indoor cycling is likely. Hand-ball, wall-tennis and Jai Alai analogs are likely. Lunar gymnastics will have to substitute momentum-rebound for gravity to keep the pace of routines less than dreamfully slow. Floors, walls, ceilings and hand rings or rungs everywhere will be part of the action. The risk of momentum impact injury will be a quick teacher, or triage master.

Surface sports out on the desolate moonscapes? Of course. Out-vac events may involve unsuited contestants in pressurized vehicles, but more likely suited competitors on foot or in open-vac human-powered vehicles (cycles, squirrel cages, or American Gladiator style Atlas balls scoring points by rolling into a succession of variably sized craterlets, for example. Pogo stick events? Why not, especially on the Moon!

Some familiar field and track analogs are more likely to be practiced in a suit out on the surface than indoors simply because of the room needed: the javelin, shot put, discus, maybe even the pole vault. Suited surface races may include hurdles and steeplechase type events, perhaps cross-country marathons. One thing not to forget is the dependence of suited contestants on efficient handling of perspiration and heat by their suits. This dependence may insert a level of erratic apparatus-driven variability that may be unsuitable for Olympics sanctioned events. It would seem that indoor games and events which more reliably measure the performance of the individual independent of apparatus will be quicker to be elevated to Olympic status.

Artificial Gravity Venues

Artificial gravity outside centrifuge cages, is something yet to escape the financial prison of paper studies. It would seem that NASA never heard of Von Braun or never say 2001. Artificial gravity comes courtesy of a set of engineering challenges that NASA has lacked either the confidence or the determination to tackle. When that situation will change is anybody's guess. Even in speculative planning of a human Mars expedition, NASA seems determined to send its crew in a zero-G environment guaranteeing that after many months of free-fall coast they will arrive on the scene much to weak to do anything useful. Baby step experimentation with tether induced rotation, for example between a pair of shuttles, between a shuttle and Mir, between a shuttle and a station habitat prior to delivery, are so simple in concept that the refusal to attempt them invites contempt. Nonetheless the day will come.

Rotating environments can provide a range of baseline G values from 1 (Earth standard), 3/8ths (Mars standard), 1/6th (lunar standard), with end cap and ramp ranges everywhere in between on down to co-axial micro-gravity levels. We are likely in time to see a number of rotating habitats at each of these gravity levels.

However, even within an Earth-normal "1G" space oasis, we will at best be able to enjoy Earth-like sports and events (with a distinctive difference). For given the small kilometer-scale or even smaller radius of rotation likely in each instance, the Coriolis effects which are only insignificant laboratory curiosities on Earth, will infect most athletic and sports activities in artificial gravity environments with a decided "English" on ball trajectories and even personal movements and maneuvers, an "English" which will differ with the vector: N, NNE, NE, ENE, E, ESE, SE, SSE, S, SSW, SW, WSW, W, WNW, NW, NNW. All else being equal (game rules, court size, gravity level, equipment) players newly arrived from Earth will have a variably difficult time adapting to this pervasive "English" or Coriolis spin. The results may range from wild to comic caricature, at least early on. (Similar coriolis affected caricatures of lunar and Martian surface sports and events in artificial gravity habitats at those fractional gravity levels.)

Nor is coriolis force the only one that will affect play. Running eastward (spinward) a player or contestant will add to his/her weight measurably, while one running westward (antispinward) will experience noticeably reduced weight. Team captains will surely flip a coin for preferred starting orientation, with teams certainly switching at half-time if not quarterly. A simple assist will be a set of "Cue colors" along the perimeter (fence, wall) of the playing field. For example.

[EDITOR: scan in illustration from hardcopy]

Larger radius, slower rotating settlements will have flatter, less "English"-affected fields. By the same token the weight increases or decreases by those running eastward or westward respectively will be less noticeable. But all this may be many generations in the realization.

Coriolis forces will be noticeable on effect on wind-ups (e.g. for shot put) and may make for more pronounced advantages or disadvantages for right-handed versus left-handed throwers depending upon direction of the throw.

Island I (Bernal Sphere for 1000 people) and III (he million inhabitant Sunflower design of Gerard O'Neill) designs both include end caps, which offer a range of descending gravity levels on their slopes.

[EDITOR: scan in illustration from hardcopy]

Such end caps will feature gentle ramps and level plateaus. Garden, forest, and park space may be punctuated with apartments, resorts and hotels. If the habitat enjoys a full 1 G at the periphery, on the caps there will be habitat concentration at the Mars-mimicking 3/8ths G and Moon-mimicking 1/6th G plateaus.

End caps offer a very attractive venue for a range of Space Olympic events. The variable gravity will be ideal for a most interesting steeple-chase type event incorporating NE vs. NW and SE vs. SW variations (spinward and antispinward in both north and south caps). The caps of a 1G space habitat might host a space decathlon featuring a mix of events at terrestrial, Martian, lunar, and micro-gravity levels.

In a torus type habitat like the Stanford Island II design for 10,000 people, Martian and lunar gravity levels could be achieved in smaller concentric torus arc sections or complete rings. These could be reached not just by radial (i.e. vertical and perpendicular) elevators but by torus--tangential ramps that would follow Hohmann semielliptical orbit paths. The ever tightening (steeper) climb would be compensated by the every diminishing gravity inwards, and vice versa. So variable G steeplechase and decathlon events could be made possible in torus settlements as well - with properly attentive design.

[EDITOR: scan in illustration from hardcopy]

The co-axial areas of Bernal Spheres and Cylinder habitats, if free of power-generation or light transmission activity and equipment could offer a precarious perch for zero-G mimicking events. However the region is unstable in that any displacement at all, however tiny, from dead axis center means inevitable acceleration towards the nearer surface. That, of course, could be part of the game plan of any number of events designed to play on just such a certainty. Events like human winged- flight, gymnastics, and diving (bungee-constrained or pool-bound) are plausible.

One thing such megastructures will offer is a lot of open air, at least by early frontier standards. And the sheer inner surface spaciousness of Island III cylinders, on the order of dozens of square miles, makes them ideal for traditional type marathons. In all honesty, however, construction of such grandiose habitats by mid-century is questionable.

More modest artificial gravity structures, especially tether-split-and-spun deep space ferries on long journeys are very likely in such a time frame and in such mobile venues is where artificial-G sports and athletic events will take root.

Artificial gravity can even be simulated by resultant acceleration, at higher than native levels on the Moon and Mars (even on asteroids) by means of pressurized gyms riding an appropriately banked circular Maglev track at a set speed. Such a facility would allow lunar and Martian residents to practice for higher gravity level space decathlon events.

We are not used to thinking about the external environments of rotating habitats. But certainly tethered-EVA sporting events outside rotating hulls are conceivable. One possibility dubbed "dangle-jectory rallye" was illustrated in the MMM # 30 article referenced above.

"By shortening a tether to the hub, one would advance on the rotating structure; by paying the tether out one would fall behind - simple conservation of angular momentum. Using such maneuvers in tag matches might be risky, but rallye-type events in which one races the clock directly, and competitors only indirectly, attempting to land first on a forward perch or tag ring, then on one to the rear, before returning 'home'. all by manipulating the effective length of the tether, could provide healthy adrenalin-pumping sport."

[EDITOR: scan in illustration from hardcopy]

"Dangle-Jectory" Rallye: From A to B to C to A

Mars Events and Games

Martians-to-be will develop their own set of sports and track and field events, some reminiscent of those practiced on Earth or the Moon, some uniquely different. Mars 3/8ths gravity level will allow more traction and quicker maneuvering than on the Moon, but still much less than on Earth.

The thin atmosphere will be friendlier to suited surface events than is the harsh lunar vacuum. But Mars still will be a far cry from open air, open skied Earth.

The important thing to remember for our topic, Olympic Space Games, is that until as yet unimagined forms of transportation drastically reduce Mars' very effective isolation from the Earth-Moon-L4/5 system, Mars with its own orbital facilities and outposts on the moonlets Phobos or Deimos is more likely to develop its own set of parochial games. Integration into some pan-ecumenical Solar System wide Games seems well beyond the horizon. Travel windows are irreducibly 25 months apart, and travel times, even by proposed nuclear ships, involve some months.

Martian youth back in the Earth Moon system for university studies may well carry the Martian flag into Olympic Space Games competition, however. Of that concession, we can be sure.

Mini-G Venues

What about the asteroids as venues for the pursuit of the Olympic athletic ideal? Ceres, by far the largest, boasts only 3% of Earth-normal gravity. (Several satellites of Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus, as well as Pluto and Charon have gravities in between the Moon's and Ceres'.) All other asteroid bodies have less than that 3%. In most instances the ambient "mini-G" is so minimal as to merely put an "English" on activities that are near zero-G like. The same type of events that work in freefall will work with a little adaptation in mini-G. Those choosing to live in such locations or working there on assignment will surely compete among themselves.

The remarks made about Mars' participatory isolation go double for the asteroids, any of them singly, all of them as a group. Low delta-V trajectories notwithstanding, infrequent windows and long travel times and low human populations will make them the ultimate competitive sports boondocks. Again, asteroid-raised youth back in the home system for school, will proudly carry the banner of their adopted worldlets in the cislunar Space Games.

Mini-G wrestlers will not need a pad. Indoor corridor hand-rail races, slaloms, and steeplechases will be popular. On the surface, cable and hand-rail off-ground races will work. "Claw walking", a horizontal analog of rock-pick climbing, is an idea of Michael Thomas (reference above.) Heavily ballasted isometrically hand and foot pedal-powered squirrel cage (rimless? i.e. just spoked?) cycles could carry contestants in races or rallyes over the surface.

[EDITOR: scan in illustration from hardcopy]

Even among themselves, in clock mediated events where participants are far and long separated by distance and time, records and winners will be hard to pin down. There is simply to great a range of mini-gravity levels. Classes like boxer weight divisions (heavy weight, middle weight, welter weight etc.) are one way this might be handled.

A Space Games Decathlon

Development of a well-rounded Space Games Decathlon type competition will mark the coming of age of the future Space Olympics. The winner will be dubbed "best athlete in the Solar System", probably with protests from the Martian Media and disdain by Martian settlers. Oh well!

The question is should such a Decathlon have some events (a trio) at Earth-normal gravity? The answer would seem to be yes, especially if their are space habitats with artificial gravity at Earth-normal levels. After all, being able to compete under such taxing conditions (and heroically finish the event, even if placing well behind) will be the only mark that will earn the Lunan settler or freefaller true system-wide respect.

The mix of events should include a trio of zero-G and sixthweight events each, and even a token Marts gravity level event. Anyway, that's a stab at it but I wouldn't dare to be more specific.

Yet longer range, a decathlon type competition that excludes super-gravid events (Martian and terrestrial gravity levels) may emerge to the forefront in Solar System wide games. Ganymede, Callisto, Io, Europa, and Titan all have gravity levels comparable to the Moon's, and in all the Solar System, no human-negotiable surface beyond Earth's itself (six times lunar standard) is more gravid, except for Mars (2.25 times lunar standard).

Participation by the handicapped

Non-prehensile limbs as opposed to prehensile ones are designed to handle locomotion in a gravid environment. We already have a wheel chair race in the Olympics. But in the Space Games of the mid-twenty first century, there may be much more handicapped participation. Especially in some zero-G events, legless amputees may even have an advantage, in open competition with others. Indeed, it might be more of a challenge to design events for which legs are an asset than merely get in the way.


The process of developing and standardizing an appropriate mix of Olympic level events and games will take a long time to mature. We can insure a head start in running computer simulations with gravity level, mass, court size and configuration, apparatus mass and design, and rules all factored into the trial model. Such simulations could easily "pre narrow" the wide range of possibilities into a feasible handful of games, events worth trying at some unprohibitive expense. Such a down select will need the filter of mutual compatibility, arena-wise as well as sufficiently market-tested player and spectator interest alike.

Virtual reality games and events built upon such computer simulations will act as a further filter, though some physically and humanly possible sports and events, however popular to VR players, may be a long time coming if the facilities or equipment they require would be prohibitively expensive.

Will games and sports described seminally enough in the pages of science fiction inspire the inventor developers of real future athletic events? That will depend on science fiction fans with sufficient creative imagination and computer simulation skills and determination - an unknown.

Popularity with tourists at orbital and lunar resorts will have an effect. But this may be probably minor in financial terms compared to that of popularity with Earth-bound armchair commercial TV or pay-per-view spectators of space athletic and sports event telecasts.

Beyond Earth orbit, isolation (Lunar and Martian rural settings, even more so asteroidal ones) will further experimentation. This should yield second generation events rather than and work to delay standardization of an initial set.

A major threshold will be the development and multiplication of megastructures in space (O'Neill type colonies, Islands I, II, III etc.) and on the Moon (Bova-Rawlings "Main Plaza" in "Welcome to Moonbase"; LRS' double-vaulted rille settlements in the 1989 "Prinzton" Study (MMMs #s 26-29, 31-33) providing very large Earth-reminiscent volumes. In such environments, human winged flight will be one of the oft foreseen possibilities.

Some events will rise to Olympic level play well before others. New events will be added with each edition of the Space Games. ABC's Wide World of Sports, will become Wide Worlds of Sports.

The epic saga of human adaptability continues.

2046 as a time goal is a very big challenge. By then a start should have been made on an official Space Olympic event list, integrated into the overall official Olympics program, with official sanction.

Finally, the effect of the Space Olympics and Space sports in general may be to ignite or fan the flames of many a youth's desire to settle space.


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