#98 September 1996
Section 126.96.36.199.098.of the Artemis Data Book
by Peter Kokh, with reader input invited!
[EDITOR: you must scan in the several illustrations from hardcopy issue in places indicated]
"There won't be a sesquicentennial Olympics because they are held every four years, so we are talking about 148 or 152 years, not 150." Ah, but the "Winter Olympics" are now held during the intervening even numbered year, and so also might be the "Space Olympics". This moot point handled, and this years spectacular Atlanta Games fresh in mind, let's speculate on what the future might bring.
Relevant Readings from Back Issues of MMM MMM #9 OCT '87 "Moonsports" MMM #11 DEC '87 Space Oases II Internal Bearings MMM #30 NOV '90 "Wanted: Split Personality types for Mars Expedition" MMM #42 FEB '91 "Locomotion: Mobility in Very low Gravity Environments" by Michael Thomas MMM #46 JUN '91 "Footloose among the Asteroids" MMM #50 NOV '91 , pp. 6-7 "Hostel-Appropriate Architectures: (4) 'Hybrid' Inflatables" MMM # 51 DEC '92 "Hybrid Rigid-Inflatables in Space"
A lot of different things have to come together before the dream of Olympic Space Games can become even an infant reality. We'll need not only a set of appropriate events, but a significant pool of human talent with sufficient practice time in whatever space locations are involved.
The population at the various space sites need not be permanent on a personal level (cradle-to-grave family based), but it must certainly be characterized by long enough tours of duty to allow potential contestants to take to their new medium, be it zero-G or lunar sixthweight, by "second nature".
Long before there are permanent residents of off planet "nations", contestants will compete in the various sanctioned space events as representatives of their home nations on Earth - much as many third world nations are well represented in the Olympics by their youths at school in the developed world.
In time, true space nationalities will arise (e.g. Lunan, Lagrangian), but that time is well off. When it does come, will there be a strong native born advantage? Native born Lunans, even native born Martians, may be significantly taller and more lithe than new arrivals and this will give them an advantage in some events and sports, but handicap them decisively in other events more tailored to new arrivals with their Earth-tuned musculatures. This situation will be handled by the sure emergence of a second generation of new space events and sports to suit the "new youth".
Even apart from this, some immigrants will take to the new gravity situation as if by second nature, "instinctively knowing" how to take advantage of everything of every potential asset of the new environment. Standards of performance, required maneuvers etc. will inexorably change for dancers, gymnasts, etc. as more "natural" expertise develops.
Given the relatively small populations living or just working off planet by the end of the first half of the next century, there will necessarily be a very high contestant to population/spectator ratio. But with the pervasively felt need to not take physical condition and muscle tone in space or on the Moon for granted, the percentage of off planet populations engaged in athletic physical activities is sure to be at unprecedented levels. Couch potatoes on the new frontier may constitute a minority. True, there will be other demands for off duty energies like arts and crafts and development of new cottage industries. Still, fitness consciousness will run high.
A large enough pool of physically talented people does not guarantee a Space Olympics, of course. Events and Sports designed for an Earth-normal gravity environment ("1 G") will be totally in appropriate for "zero-G" venues, and come off in pathetically ludicrous manner in the Moon's 1/6th G or in Mars' 3/8ths G. In other words, new sports and events appropriate to the gravity situation of each type of space venue must be developed, standardized, and their level of performance matured, before we can have an event worthy of sanction by the Interplanetary Olympics Committee. We will need major experimentation.
To this end off-planet Sports Development Societies may sprout up with various chapters in each new venue or class of venues. They in turn will be divided into various "sections" (e.g. concerned with the guided development and evolution of venue-tailored gymnastics, dancing, and skating; with swimming and diving and flying; with track and field type events, with apparatus co-development; with spectator team sports, etc.
For the latter, team sports, a successful formula might involve simplicity with yet enough complexity to allow interest-holding variety of outcome. Of course, as more athletes need to be involved in team sports than in individual competitions, they may as much as a generation behind.
Equally critical to the rise of new appropriate events and games will be the material-physical standardization of facilities, that is of "tracks", "fields", "arenas", and "courts". Since facilities dedicated to athletics and sports on a full-time basis will be significantly more expensive as a percentage of overall venue and settlement development expenditures, multi-use gyms and arenas will certainly be the rule. One can design or invent a totally appropriate event or game, which however will not soon, if ever, become real simply because its field-needs are as yet financially or architecturally impractical or incompatible with other more modest, more easily accommodated events and games.
Along with event and sport development, evolution, and maturation, there needs to be then a co-standardization of multi-use facilities and practice courts. As the cost of suitable pressurized host volume comes down, new differently configured and sized facilities can be built and new families of events and sports developed for them, or vice versa.
The Space Games of the future then will be strongly grouped by the arena type for which they are co-designed. Multi-use will be the order of the day, and any arena, court or field analogs that are developed will have to be reconfigurable for a large variety of athletic events and games. The profligate stadium specialization we see today (especially in the light of more urgent social needs for public dollars) is not an example we will soon seen misfollowed on the space frontier.
It will be hard enough to design, build, and financially justify orbital and surface facilities for athletes and contestants themselves. Yet we must provide co-space for judges, referees or umpires, and sports reporters. And what about spectators? By far the greatest portion of sports facility expense on Earth is dedicated exclusively to the accommodation and comfort of spectators. Will we need to reduce gallery size to the point were only token proxy spectators can be accommodated? In fact, in the beginning, the on site population will be small and much gallery space not needed. Live telecasts to others in the host venue watching at home or in the local sports bar can be tapped for combined audio-feedback to the players and contestants. Certainly that kind of feedback will be essential in inspiring Olympic-caliber performances.
Potential Space Venues are several, and their individual Prognoses for Olympic class event development differ. First will come LEO [low Earth orbit], GEO [geosynchronous or Clarke orbit], LLO [low lunar orbit], and other zero-G venues, including deep space vehicles on long duration coasts without artificial gravity (via rotation). But for suitable athletic activities to evolve in such venues we will need a lot bigger pool of talent than the handful provided for in the budgeted International Space Station Alpha [ISSA]. Once complementary commercial sibling orbital facilities start to appear, the prospects will pick up. Meanwhile, the ISSA handful are surely likely to experiment.
On the lunar surface, the outlook is similar, dim at first, much brighter later if a token scientific outpost is followed by a real permanent town of sorts and further improved as secondary sites appear here and there around the Moon. For nothing accelerated development (and/or evolution) like competition.
The same can be said for athletic and sports development on the Martian Surface. As to potential Olympic style activities in "mini-G" asteroid-sized environments, they are likely to get their first real boost from personnel stationed on the Martian moonlets, Phobos and Deimos. Mini-G can be defined as 3% of Earth-standard or less, that maximum being what we'll find on Ceres, the atypically largest asteroid of all. Because potential asteroid are manifold and all over the graph on their precise levels of mini-G, standardization will be difficult. Perhaps the right approach is to treat mini-G as an "English", not unlike the Coriolis effect, on what for all practical athletic purposes is a near zero-G environment.
Rotating Space Facilities (Lagrange or other space settlements; tether-rotating deep space cruise ships, and rotating space stations and resorts) may mock terrestrial (1-G), Martian (3/8ths G), or lunar (1/6th G) gravity levels, but events and games in played in them will have a sometimes decisive "translation" that will make them more than subtly different. That will be the result of Coriolis forces: causing a different "English" on a ball (for example) depending on whether it is thrown east (spinward), west (antispinward), north (left of east), or south (right of east).
And now for a more complete illustration.
All known and currently practiced forms of human athletic activity and sport have evolved in a commonly stratified environment horizontalized by gravity at (for all practical purposes) a set given level which we have come to call "1 G" or Earth-standard. This invisible, silent but essential and transcendental component will be absent in space (though it can be inadequately mimicked by artificial gravity against the inner surface of an outer hull by rotation-induced centrifugal force. - On that, later.)
So when it comes to potential events in freefall or drift space, we will be starting with a fresh blackboard - almost. I say almost because some aspects or varieties of terrestrial exercise and sport are independent of gravity. Isometric and other resistance exercises where one muscle works against another are an example, and isometric events might replace weight-lifting in orbit. Another salvageable component is the resilient ball. Thrown against a surface, a ball will bounce whether gravity rules or not. Here then is a start, and a significant one.
Given these two starting points, the next inseparably linked pair of challenges will be (1) to design a versatile space gymnasium-arena-court volume that is relatively inexpensive to erect and maintain, and (2) co-design a diverse family of events and sports activities to be exercised and played therein. And we must do both carefully with due consideration to non-premature standardization.
In space, where pressurized facilities must be maintained in an ambient vacuum environment, curve-contained volumes are the most stable and natural. We are talking about cylinders, spheres, and donut-shaped toroids. In addition to shape, we must pay critical attention to radius and volume as they will shape everything. We will need facilities that are large enough to house satisfying activities, yet economic to provide. Compromise, or better "co"-"promise" will be the order of the day.
Cylinders recommend themselves as the most voluminous shapes for the mass involved that can be built on Earth and launched ready to use in space, transported there in cargo holds or, with a faring, stacked above or alongside a rocket booster piggy-back style. But even the largest practical such structures (e.g. an empty or emptied retrofitable shuttle external tank) will be rather restrictive in the activities it can host. (It would be a start).
Inflatable structures such as even larger cylinders, spheres, and toroids can provide significantly more volume for the launched mass. They would have to be easily retrofitable, inside and out (i.e. meteorite shields), A more elegant solution is the "hybrid" rigid-inflatable, the inflatable with an attached rigid works-packed core or end (see MMM # 50, and 51 references above.) Carefully co-designed for a compatible mix of sports and athletic events, all the equipment needed for reconfiguration for the various hosted activities would unfold, pop-out, or be simply stored to be hand-deployed in a compact works core/locker section which might even include, in more elaborate successor versions, locker room type facilities.
Below: hybrid inflatable sphere (upper) hybrid inflatable cylinder (lower)
[EDITOR: scan in illustration from hardcopy]
[EDITOR: scan in illustration from hardcopy]
Donut-shaped toroids can come in "tight" (below, left) or loose (below, right) configurations and might offer interesting space in which challenging sports could be played or alternately host a number of simultaneous individual player events.
[EDITOR: scan in illustration from hardcopy]
In the tight torus, the "pinch zone" can serve as "goal" or "backboard" for a concentric "basket" of sorts per suggestive illustration below. Various sections of the torus walls can be zoned (lined or color-coded) for different aspects of play. All surfaces will be potential rebound surfaces, some fair, others possibly foul.
[EDITOR: scan in illustration from hardcopy]
The assumption, of course, is that any of these structures would be non-rotating, and attached by shirtsleeve pressurized passageway to a host station or orbital facility or cruise ship. But we could always play around with "free" rotation, fitted with ball-bearing connections to the host facility so that it could "acquire" rotation spun up or down by the action-reaction play that is taking part inside them. That might certainly add interesting variables! For example, paired contestants or teams could do their thing in opposite directions, and the resultant torque differential would clearly indicate which side is gaining the upper hand.
Alternately, individuals or teams could rally against the clock and starting from a zero-G stop, work to spin up the facility and end up running on the periphery in an artificial gravity situation. Standardization of such a free-rotating facility would have to be strictly controlled and might be too difficult, however. Making provision for judging areas and at least token media and spectator galleries will be a design challenge, hopefully with some elegant solutions. Just as important will be designing works cores or event pantries that will support a diverse yet compatible variety of events and sports activities. One such facility per zero-G venue is all there is likely to be, if even one! A successful working design easy to erect and maintain is likely to become an instant standard.
Types of indoor zero-G events we can foresee are isometric competition, wrestling, boxing, and other action-reaction ruled events. Air-swimming and air-dancing and gymnastics should prove tele-spectator favorites. Versions of handball, ping pong or tennis, Jai Alai analogs allowing play off of all surfaces, even basketball without the running and dribbling. Limited volume may mean rallies (clock mediated competition) or multiple heats.
In a spherical volume, some sort of triaxial reactor like those used by training astronauts should support some fantastic gymnastic routines. Additional reader-developed and illustrated suggestions are most welcome.
Zero-G Olympic events will surely include some "EVA" [extra vehicular activity] type events in space suits or pods. The challenge will be to ensure both the safety of the contestants and competitors and minimize the risk of body and equipment impact damage to the host structure perhaps with nets of some sort or other types of sufficient shield.
A backpack slalom, a hand-grip or hand rail race or rallye, muscle powered rail-gripping cart-cycles or dollies, and various sorts of gyroscopically counter-rotating hand wheel devices are imaginable.
Solar sailing is a much prophesied Olympic level competition possibility. But the sail apparatus would have to be weight- and/or size-fixed for Olympic competition purposes, not so for America's Cup type ever-evolving yachting type competition.
Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto