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Elementary Science Education

Weightlessness in space

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      Bernard Nebel

      Ask: Why do astronauts experience weightlessness as they are traveling in space? A common answer is that there is no gravity. This is a misconception that needs to be corrected! The real answer is that they, with their space capsule and everything in it, are in a state of free-fall. Hence everything is experienced as weightless. The following video shows how astronauts live in their weightless environment.

      If they are falling, why do they not fall to Earth? Answer this question with another question: Why are satellites etc. always put into orbits? Conduct the exercise described in the text that demonstrates how a satellite’s path, which by that law of inertial would take it out away from the Earth, balances its fall toward the Earth.

      This topic may be extended to include a discussion of planets in their respective orbits around the sun. Without orbiting they would all fall into the sun. In each case, a planet’s orbit is a balance between its the forward motion, which would carry it out away from the sun, and its fall toward the sun. Type into your browser: images solar system

      Please post questions or comments.

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