The Astronaut’s Caravan is an ingenious demonstration of the ways in which our senses tell us one thing whilst we know the opposite to be true.
Andy Plant and Tim Hunkin – two of the UK’s most ingenious fabricators – have taken a simple illusion and turned it into an experience that has the same effect as a fairground ride but with one big difference – the riders remain completely stationary as they hurtle sedately through spacetime.
How is it done? Imagine a caravan that can rotate lengthwise along an axle. The riders site on fixed seats along the length of the axle. They can see the caravan walls, cupboards, windows and chintzy decorations in front of them. It’s all very normal, all very 70’s caravan-club, apart from the two ex-astronauts who are ready to help them on their journey.
When everyone is settled the caravan slowly begins to rotate on its lengthways axis. The riders immediately have a sensation of motion that is completely real. They feel as if they are turning in space, and as the caravan slowly spins through 360 degrees, the walls, ceiling and floor rotate around the riders. The feeling of motion is now so intense that the riders believe it is they that are moving – turning upside down over and over again.