A demonstration video of the Turbolift, which simulates gravity by accelerating and decelerating an astronaut along a track in space.

A contraption that combines an alpine slide with a trampoline in outer space may help reduce the health impacts of life in zero gravity, says University of Colorado scientist Torin Clark. Clark and his team received a research grant for the Turbolift from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program, which funds ideas that sound like science fiction, but could be made real.

Clark tells Colorado Matters that the health problems astronauts face, including muscle atrophy and bone loss, will be worse on extended voyages like a mission to Mars. To mitigate this, he and his team propose strapping the astronaut into a sled and catapulting it back and forth across a track. The forces of acceleration and deceleration would simulate the effect of gravity.  

NIAC is holding a symposium in Denver this week. On Monday we spoke with Chris Dreyer of the Colorado School of Mines, who's part of a team exploring the idea of mining asteroids using concentrated sunlight. On Tuesday, University of Colorado scientist Jay McMahon told us about the possibility of frisbee-like robots flying around and attaching themselves to asteroids.