60-second adventures in microgravity

What is microgravity, and how does it help science research?

Why do astronauts float on the space station? Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t because there’s no gravity. The gravitational pull of the Earth is almost as strong in the orbit of the International Space Station as it is on you as you read this. Astronauts are experiencing weightlessness because they are in a microgravity environment.

But what is microgravity and how does it help scientific research? David Mitchell explains in this four-part series. Explore how we recreate microgravity conditions here on Earth using drop towers, parabolic flights and even beds! Find out how this helps us to understand processes as diverse as human aging, bacterial resistance, and planet formation — without going to space at all!

1. What is microgravity?

What causes that feeling of momentarily losing your stomach when you go over a hump-back bridge? Weightlessness! This video explains microgravity and the value for scientists of creating a ‘weightless’ environment on Earth.

2. The Vomit Comet

How do planets form? This 60-second adventure reveals the way scientists are exploiting microgravity environments to understand how planets form, with a queasy ride in a plane.

3. Bed rest

Fancy lying down for 6 months? This clip explains how scientists have managed to examine the effects of aging, using little more than a bed.

4. Space bugs

Can bacteria divide and conquer in space? See how scientists recreate space environments to study bugs, using a gravity-defying chamber not unlike a washing machine.

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