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How Many Gs Can You Take
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How Many Gs Can You Take

Credit: U.S. Government
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rocket_sled_track.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Colonel John Stapp is pictured riding a rocket sled at Edwards Air Force Base as part of an experiment to study the effects of deceleration on the human body. The human decelerator was a 680-kilogram unit that sailed down a railroad track approximately 610 meters long. The system was accelerated by rear mounted rockets while the deceleration was controlled by varying the amount of bins the system would pickup as it traveled down the track.

  • Witness Col. Stapp on the Rocket Sled:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4tuvOer_GI

Amazing But True!

Credit: U.S. Air Force Airman or employee
Source: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:StappSled.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Col. John P. Stapp experimenting with high travel speeds [Figure2]

  • Col. Stapp volunteered for a total of 26 experiments. In some cases he would travel at speeds up to 632 miles per hour. He was able to show that the human body could withstand at least 45 g's in the forward facing position using the appropriate harness. 
  • Stapp contributed to participate in research that helped revolutionize the designs of both commercial and military aircraft. Because of Stapp, new flight harnesses were created, acceleration requirements of flights seats were increased, and rear-facing seats were discovered to be the superior position for safety in both military and commercial aircrafts.
  • Later in his career, Col. Stapp eventually moved his focus to the importance of seatbelts in automobiles. As a result of Stapp's research, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1966 law stating that every vehicle must be made with seatbelts.

Explore More

Using the information provided above, answer the following questions.

  1. If you were to experience a negative acceleration of 29.43 m/s2, how many g's would you experience? ('1 g' is defined as gravity, 9.8 m/s2.)
  2. Why couldn?t the scientists just launch Col. Stapp?s rig into a brick wall while he was inside of it?
  3. If the time span at which Col. Stapp is brought to a stop is doubled, would this increase or decrease the total g's that he would feel?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: U.S. Government; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rocket_sled_track.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: U.S. Air Force Airman or employee; Source: commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:StappSled.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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