Everyone knows a gyrosphere when they see it. A person sits or stands inside it, and a series of concentric rings spin around, flipping and rolling the rider in many different directions. But where did it come from and, just as importantly, why was it invented?
The answer lies in the history of an ancient device used for navigation that led to the creation of a machine used by astronauts to train for missions in space decades ago. It’s also led to creation of a thrill ride that remains popular to this day.
The 4-Spin Gyrosphere attraction offered by Fun Crew USA is a fun application of the gyroscope design and a 4-person thrill ride. Based on the similar apparatus used by the astronauts to simulate zero gravity, the 4-Spin Gyrosphere spins, rolls and tumbles up to four riders at the time, giving them a sense of weightlessness.
Spinning Gyroscope Rides
The concept for the 4-Spin Gyrosphere ride is based on what NASA used to train astronauts. The earliest versions of this “gimbal rig” featured a chair surrounded by cages that spun astronauts in the Mercury and Gemini program. The machine gave them the sensation of what it would be like should their space capsule begin spinning. They practiced emergency procedures in this challenging environment.
It became part of the training at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Over the years, the single-seat machine became iconic, symbolizing in one image the training and preparation astronauts endured before their journey to space even began.
The large presence of NASA in Florida is why a whole section of the east coast of the state, along the Atlantic Ocean, is called the Space Coast. Centered around the space center, this area is just east of Orlando and includes Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral.
The Multi-Axis Trainer
From this earlier design, NASA created a “multi-axis trainer” (MAT) – also known as an aerotrim – machine that is much more like the 4-Spin Gyrosphere ride.
The MAT spins on three different axes and three different rings. The outer ring locks into place. A motor powers the center ring while the inner ring remains free spinning. The chair the astronaut sat in is also free spinning on a different axis.
When riding inside the gyrosphere, you don’t get nauseous because you don’t get dizzy. You never spin in more than one direction twice in a row. So, you have the feeling of being disoriented without feeling dizzy. It’s a fun feeling!
The MAT has been used for training for both pilots and astronauts.
Where The Original Idea Started
Astronauts on the Space Coast in Florida used the “gimbal rig” for many years to train. Eventually, NASA invented a new type of machine for the space shuttle program.
The original idea for a gyrosphere dates all the way back to the invention of the gyroscope. It is a spinning wheel in which, just like the MAT, the inner axis of rotation is free to assume any orientation by itself. It’s basically a top attached to two or three support gimbals.
The first known use of the gyrosphere was by English sea captain John Serson in 1743. He used it to find the horizon while at sea when in fog. Johann Bohnenberger of Germany made the first rotating sphere that resembles what we think of as a gyrosphere today.
Fun fact: the movie “Jurassic World” has a “gyrosphere” in which the riders are contained inside a plastic bubble that is a moving gyrosphere.
The 4-Spin Gyrosphere is a popular entertainment rental attraction at Fun Crew USA with a great history behind its design. Riders get the chance to experience zero gravity, just like the astronauts in Florida long ago!