Ask a NASA astronomer! Why is there zero gravity in space?

Astronauts aren’t floating in space, they’re free falling—and so are you. Here's the amazing science behind so-called zero gravity.

When we launched our 'Ask an astronomer' series with NASA's Michelle Thaller, one set of questions stood out from hundreds, arriving by way of the curious and clever students at Courthill Infant School, Poole, in the south of England. Representing all the aspiring scientists in Dragonflies Class, Joshua, age 4, asked NASA's Michelle Thaller a brilliant question: "Why is there no gravity in space?" Here, Thaller explains the incredible science behind why astronauts appear to float in space, which is an interesting misconception fuelled by the term 'zero gravity'. (In fact, there is a small amount of gravity found everywhere in space, which is why microgravity is a more accurate term.) So what are they doing if not floating? They're actually constantly free falling, says Thaller, and so are you, the person beside you, and the entire planet Earth. It's a high-velocity orbit that allows astronauts to seemingly defy gravity, soaring so fast around the planet that they remain suspended instead of succumbing to Earth's gravitational pull. Michelle Thaller explains the very cool science of how orbits allow astronauts to seemingly defy gravity. You can follow Michelle Thaller on Twitter at @mlthaller.

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Breaking the ice: How astronauts overcome their differences aboard the ISS

Think getting along with people that are nothing like you is hard? Here’s how astronauts do it, 254 miles above Earth on the ISS.

Look up—you can see the greatest feat of human cooperation orbiting 254 miles above Earth. As commander of Expedition 35 aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield understands the difficulty of cultural barriers in team work, and the life or death necessity of learning to communicate across those divides. The ISS is a joint project between five space agencies, built by people from 15 different nations—and each of them has a different take on what is "normal". Hadfield explains the scale of cultural differences aboard the spaceship: "What do you do on a Friday night? What does "yes" mean? What does "uh-huh" mean? What is the day of worship? When do you celebrate a holiday? How do you treat your spouse or your children? How do you treat each other? What is the hierarchy of command? All of those things seem completely clear to you, but you were raised in a specific culture that is actually shared by no one else." Here, Hadfield explains his strategy for genuine listening and communication. Whether it's money, reputation, or your life that's at stake, being sensitive and aware of people's differences helps you accomplish something together—no matter where you’re from. Amway believes that ​diversity and inclusion ​are ​essential ​to the ​growth ​and ​prosperity ​of ​today’s ​companies. When woven ​into ​every ​aspect ​of ​the talent ​life ​cycle, companies committed to diversity and inclusion are ​the ​best ​equipped ​to ​innovate, ​improve ​brand image ​and ​drive ​performance. Chris Hadfield features in the new docuseries One Strange Rock and is the author of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything

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This is the damage a tiny speck of space debris can do at 15,000mph

Space is not the place to put waste, as it turns pretty much anything into a high-velocity projectile capable of causing incredible damage. 

Gravity, 2013

If you'll excuse the analogy, the immediate surroundings in space are kind of like Brooklyn. It's becoming increasingly crowded, expensive, and ultimately full of things that shouldn't be there in the first place. Unlike Brooklyn, however, space is full of space debris: small amounts of (basically) trash that humans have gotten in our orbit. The ISS has cataloged about 500,000 of these small pieces and they hurtle around our planet at about 15,000mph. Or 14.17 g-force. Or 24,140kph. 

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From Living Inside Asteroids to Solar Arks, a Scientist Designs the Space Colonies of the Future

New research explains how to build different types of outposts in space.

The space colony Island 3 by Gerard K. O’Neill (1975).

The next several decades are likely to be revolutionary in humanity’s relationship with space. Instead of just the select few astronauts, a much larger portion of the planet’s population, perhaps hundreds of thousands, could start traveling into the cosmos. They would go on long journeys to faraway planets like Mars, staff the first colonies on the moon and beyond, become asteroid miners and engage in many other professions that will be necessary as we explore this new frontier. But what will these first outposts in space look like and how will they work? 

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A British Teenager Finds an Error in NASA's Space Station Data

A 17-year-old British schoolboy spots an error in the data from International Space Station's radiation sensors.

The International Space Station (ISS) is seen from NASA space shuttle Endeavour after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation May 29, 2011 in space. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)

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