<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

”weightlessness” and microgravity

In contrast to the tremendous gravitational force near black holes is the apparent gravitational field experienced by astronauts orbiting Earth. What is the effect of “weightlessness” upon an astronaut who is in orbit for months? Or what about the effect of weightlessness upon plant growth? Weightlessness doesn’t mean that an astronaut is not being acted upon by the gravitational force. There is no “zero gravity” in an astronaut’s orbit. The term just means that the astronaut is in free-fall, accelerating with the acceleration due to gravity. If an elevator cable breaks, the passengers inside will be in free fall and will experience weightlessness. You can experience short periods of weightlessness in some rides in amusement parks.

The figure shows some astronauts floating inside the International Space Station
Astronauts experiencing weightlessness on board the International Space Station. (credit: NASA)

Microgravity refers to an environment in which the apparent net acceleration of a body is small compared with that produced by Earth at its surface. Many interesting biology and physics topics have been studied over the past three decades in the presence of microgravity. Of immediate concern is the effect on astronauts of extended times in outer space, such as at the International Space Station. Researchers have observed that muscles will atrophy (waste away) in this environment. There is also a corresponding loss of bone mass. Study continues on cardiovascular adaptation to space flight. On Earth, blood pressure is usually higher in the feet than in the head, because the higher column of blood exerts a downward force on it, due to gravity. When standing, 70% of your blood is below the level of the heart, while in a horizontal position, just the opposite occurs. What difference does the absence of this pressure differential have upon the heart?

Some findings in human physiology in space can be clinically important to the management of diseases back on Earth. On a somewhat negative note, spaceflight is known to affect the human immune system, possibly making the crew members more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Experiments flown in space also have shown that some bacteria grow faster in microgravity than they do on Earth. However, on a positive note, studies indicate that microbial antibiotic production can increase by a factor of two in space-grown cultures. One hopes to be able to understand these mechanisms so that similar successes can be achieved on the ground. In another area of physics space research, inorganic crystals and protein crystals have been grown in outer space that have much higher quality than any grown on Earth, so crystallography studies on their structure can yield much better results.

Plants have evolved with the stimulus of gravity and with gravity sensors. Roots grow downward and shoots grow upward. Plants might be able to provide a life support system for long duration space missions by regenerating the atmosphere, purifying water, and producing food. Some studies have indicated that plant growth and development are not affected by gravity, but there is still uncertainty about structural changes in plants grown in a microgravity environment.

Questions & Answers

what is thermodynamics
wana Reply
thermodynamic is a branch of physics that teaches on the relationship about heat and anyother form of energy
if l cary box and stop is ther any work
Tamirat Reply
no that because u have moved no distance. for work to be performed a force needs to be applied and a distance needs to be moved
Different between fundamental unit and derived unit
Alimi Reply
fundamental unit are independent quantities that do not depend on any other unit while derived unit are quantities that depend on two or more units for it definition
what is nuclear fission
Sadik Reply
are you there
miss your absence here...
what is a vector
Temitayo Reply
vectors are quantities that have numerical value or magnitude and direction.
what is regelation
vector is any quantity that has magnitude and direction
Physics is a physical science that deals with the study of matter in relation to energy
Divine Reply
hi everyone
what is physics
Rhema Reply
physics is a physical science that deals with the study of matter in relation to energy
a15kg powerexerted by the foresafter 3second
Firdos Reply
what is displacement
Xolani Reply
movement in a direction
Explain why magnetic damping might not be effective on an object made of several thin conducting layers separated by insulation? can someone please explain this i need it for my final exam
anas Reply
An object made of several thin conducting layers separated by insulation may not be affected by magnetic damping because the eddy current produced in each layer due to induction will be very small and the opposing magnetic flux produced by the eddy currents will be very small
What is thê principle behind movement of thê taps control
Oluwakayode Reply
what is atomic mass
thomas Reply
this is the mass of an atom of an element in ratio with the mass of carbon-atom
show me how to get the accuracies of the values of the resistors for the two circuits i.e for series and parallel sides
Jesuovie Reply
Explain why it is difficult to have an ideal machine in real life situations.
Isaac Reply
tell me
what's the s . i unit for couple?
its s.i unit is Nm
Force×perpendicular distance N×m=Nm
İt iş diffucult to have idêal machine because of FRİCTİON definitely reduce thê efficiency
It is difficult to have an ideal machine in real life situation because in ideal machines all the input energy should be converted to output energy . But , some part of energy is always lost in overcoming friction and input energy is always greater than output energy . Hence , no machine is ideal.
if the classica theory of specific heat is valid,what would be the thermal energy of one kmol of copper at the debye temperature (for copper is 340k)
Zaharadeen Reply
Practice Key Terms 4

Get Jobilize Job Search Mobile App in your pocket Now!

Get it on Google Play Download on the App Store Now

Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'College physics' conversation and receive update notifications?