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Engineer Tracks “Mission Mars G-Force”

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Orlando, FLOnce a year Mark Cseles and his family go to Disney World, Disney’s famous amusement park in Orlando, Florida, and spend hours on the midway rides. Cseles, an engineer who teaches physics at a college in southern Ontario, Canada, is fascinated by the Mission to Mars ride. He’s been strapped into the dazzling cockpit and launched into the fake stratosphere in Disney’s controversial space mission simulator at least 20 times.

“You’re sitting there thinking I feel weightless,” says Cseles. “I find that to be one of the coolest things about it. Disney has done a great job of making you feel like you are 100 percent weightless. You feel that for about a full ten seconds.”

If you’ve never been on the Mission to Mars ride, you can think of it as a kind of “toy simulator.” It doesn’t completely replicate a real space simulator, but the experience is intense and riders definitely get a blast of what space travel is all about.

The original Mission to Mars ride was toned down substantially in 2006, after two people died within 24 hours of going through the simulated take-off and trip to Mars.

Disney now warns riders that they should be in “good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this adventure.”

The Mission to Mars ride-car is stocked with air sickness bags. Any incorrect calibration between the visual effects in front of the ride and the motion of the ride can cause nausea. And a certain percentage of people will likely feel sick regardless.

Cseles recently took a pocket accelerometer on the ride with him so he could measure the g-force that the ride delivers. “During takeoff I was measuring 1.5Gs. That used to be a lot more vicious on the original ride. I remember the first time I was on the ride the g-force was pulling my face down. It is a bit tamer now.”

The so-called g-force is actually a measurement of acceleration and essentially multiples the weight your body feels.

Science knows quite a bit but not everything about the effects of g-force. For example, the stress and strain on objects from excessive force can cause real damage. Human beings typically can withstand about 5Gs before they pass out.

We also know that some people may be able to withstand less or perhaps more g-force. It seems to depend on a lot factors like fitness, training, posture, whether you are moving forward or laterally, and it also depends on the length of time to which the person is exposed to g-force.

To an expert in physics, like Cseles, the Mission to Mars ride is a fascinating real-life manifestation of the laws of physics.

“Of course we are not privy to the actual way Disney creates these sensations, but from what my accelerometer tells us, they are turning the axis of the ride vehicle,” says Cseles.

“Picture a plate on a table and it is spinning around,” he adds. “If you were standing on that plate, you feel as if you were being flung towards the outside. Now imagine taking your whole body and turning it 90 degrees so your head is facing upwards. By doing that kind of motion change with the ride car, they can actually change what you feel.”

“It is like being in a giant centrifuge,” says Cseles. “If they now turn the cockpit chair sideways towards the motion of the centrifuge, you feel as if you are being flung to the outside of this thing. You are pulling serious Gs now.”

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