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The Gravitron (later marketed as the Starship 2000, Starship 3000, Starship 4000, and Alien Abduction) is an amusement ride, most commonly found as a portable ride at fairs and carnivals. The Gravitron first appeared at Morey's Piers in 1983 and quickly became a fixture at amusement parks in many countries. It is a modification of an earlier ride called the Rotor. The ride was originally designed and manufactured by Wisdom Industries, though several examples of the Gravitron were produced under license by ARM in the UK and Ferrari in Australia.
The ride is completely enclosed, with 48 padded panels lining the inside wall. Riders lean against these panels, which are angled back. As the ride rotates, centrifugal force is exerted against the pads by the rider, removing the rider from the floor, due to the slant. The ride can reach a maximum speed of 24 rpm in less than 20 seconds, due to the 33 kW 3-phase motor. At this speed, the riders are experiencing centrifugal force equivalent to three times the force of gravity. At full speed, it is possible (though generally prohibited) for a skilled and strong rider to stand horizontally on the pads.
The ride operator is located in the center of the ride. Part of the operator's duty is to control lighting and music in addition to the ride itself. Some variants include closed-circuit television cameras, allowing waiting riders and passersby to observe the ride in action.
There are a few versions of this ride that do not have a roof (i.e. the top canvas is not installed).
The entire ride racks on a single 50-foot trailer for transport. The ride can be assembled in less than six hours, and packed up in three.
On August 20, 1991, a Gravitron spun itself apart at the Missouri State Fair, injuring seven children. The accident led to a class-action lawsuit against Murphy Enterprises, the operator of the ride, and Wisdom Manufacturing, resulting in modifications to the rides and stricter safety standards.
In April 2004, an accident occurred at the Dade County Youth Fair in Miami, Florida when a panel came off and threw a girl out of the ride. As a result, DCYF strengthened their safety guidelines and removed the ride from the park.[dead link]
On September 8, 2007, a teenage boy was injured while riding a Gravitron amusement ride at the Spokane County Interstate Fair in Spokane, Washington. The boy hit his head on a metal part of the ride, and needed two staples in his scalp to close the wound. Witnesses reported that the boy ignored safety warnings and climbed the walls of the ride while it was in motion. State investigators determined that the ride was safe and that the accident was the result of the victim's behavior.
The exterior of a Gravitron in Madisonville, Kentucky