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Q & A: Weightless...almost

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Why is there gravity on earth but not in space?
- gabriel beh (age 11)
tampines north primary, singapore
That's a tricky question.

Here's the real reason that astronauts don't feel gravity. If you think about it, they're not that much farther away from the center of the earth than we are when you think of how thick the earth is. But the astronaut's ship is moving so fast that when it falls due to gravity, it falls "around" the earth instead of straight down toward it.

Now you night say, "I might buy them falling around the world, but why don't they feel like they are falling?" Well, they are falling but the ship is falling too. If everything is falling at the same rate, then it appears to be weightless.

People on earth can sometimes feel almost weightless too. Some people go skydiving. Many more ride roller coasters. In these activities, if we are ever moving down with the same acceleration as something that is just dropped, we feel weightless.


(published on 10/22/2007)

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