Why Are Astronauts Weightless?

Where is gravity when you need it? Explore Earth's hold on the astronauts at the International Space Station. The narrator of a short video asks museum visitors why they think the astronauts float when they are still very close to Earth. He then reveals that it's not a lack of gravity keeping them airborne, it's their velocity as they plunge toward the surface that makes them appear weightless.

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Instructional Ideas

  • Pair the video with a lesson about gravity, velocity, or the International Space Station
  • Extend the lesson by having pupils determine where above the surface of Earth gravity loses its hold on objects
Classroom Considerations

  • Show some pictures of the International Space Station if the class is not familiar with it
Pros

  • The video corrects a common misconception about a lack of gravity in space, even close to Earth's surface
  • Narrator demonstrates the position of the International Space Station relative to Earth and the moon, a difficult quantity to imagine for most students
Cons

  • None