What’s the science behind weightlessness? (infographic)

9 Mar 2016

The physics behind gravity largely determines the make-up of Earth, with tides, weather formations, transport and beyond all determined by our attraction to Earth’s surface.

But, when gravity leaves us, why do we float?

A couple of years ago, physicists surmised that the existence of gravity is the only reason the universe didn’t collapse on itself following the Big Bang.

Future Human

Our understanding of gravity, or spacetime curvature, has evolved more since then. Extrapolating it out, the confirmation of the existence of gravitational waves only last month showed how ever-changing our understanding of our physical environment is.

The most effective way for space missions to capture the imagination of onlookers is to show astronauts floating around in space. A fact that has gone on to influence pop culture in various guises.

When asked about what it feels like to walk on the moon at one-sixth of Earth’s gravity, Buzz Aldrin once described the atmosphere as being filled with “magnificent desolation”.

He explained what it felt like to take each step, saying it’s “perhaps not too far from a trampoline, but without the springiness and instability”.

But it’s not all fun and games, with the human body put through unnatural stress when in space, resulting in weakened bones and perhaps even smaller hearts as less blood is needed to circulate the body.

Only just returned from almost a full year in space, NASA’s Scott Kelly seemingly grew two inches while he was up there for some reason.

The details behind weightlessness are below (with Aldrin’s quote misattributed to Neil Armstrong, by the way), via Security Scale Service. Enjoy!

Weightlessness gravity zero gravity infographic

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic