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"[Science fiction] is the one literary medium left in which we have a free hand. We can do any damn thing we please."
- Alfred Bester

Acceleration Shell  
  A special suit designed to help people survive accelerations of up to twenty-five gravities.  

The basic problem is figuring out how to survive the high acceleration maneuvers that spacecraft are capable of - without dying. Amusement park rides hit a maximum of 4 gravities, which is a lot for untrained riders. Accelerations from 4-6 g's for more than a few seconds produce visual impairments and eventually, blackouts.

Some benefits are provided by anti-g suits, which supply pressure to the abdomen and legs, counteracting the tendency for blood to accumulate in those areas. Proper support of the head is essential during extreme acceleration in order to avoid swelling of the sinuses and severe headaches.

The shell is like a flexible spacesuit; at least the fitting on the inside is pretty similar. But instead of a life support package, there's a hose going up into the top of the helmet and two coming out of the heels, as well as two relief tubes per suit...

When the lights in my helmet showed that everybody was suited up, I pushed the button that flooded the room. No way to see, of course, but I could imagine the pale blue solution - ethylene glycol and something else - foaming up around and over us. The suit material, cool and dry, collapsed in to touch my skin at every point. I knew that my internal body pressure was increasing rapidly to match the increasing fluid pressure outside. That's what the shot was for... By the time my meter said '2' (external pressure equivalent to a column of water two nautical miles deep), I felt that I was at the same time being crushed and bloated...

The major drawback to the system is that, of course, anybody caught outside of his shell when the Anniversary hit 25 gees would be just so much strawberry jam...

From The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman.
Published by Not Known in 1974
Additional resources -

The position of the body is very important; most people will pass out at 2 g's if accelerated in a head-first position. (Physiologists calculate that if the gravity of the earth were increased to 3 standard gravities, most people's hearts would be unable to pump blood all the way up to the brain.) Sideways accelerations of up to 10 g's can be tolerated.

Most of us have seen centrifuges used in training pilots (usually a humorous segment of the movie!), but centrifuging people goes back a long way. The origins of centrifugation date back to the beginning of the nineteenth century. Rotating a person by placing him/her along the arm of the centrifuge (which was originally operated manually and later energized by gas power) was believed to be conducive to treating nervous and mental diseases. The first modern human centrifuges were not built until the 1930s.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Forever War
  More Ideas and Technology by Joe Haldeman
  Tech news articles related to The Forever War
  Tech news articles related to works by Joe Haldeman

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