Free-Falling Astronauts
by Stephanie Wong

Astronauts in orbit around Earth aren't really floating at all. Why is that so? Here we bring to you a basics of microgravity.

Anything with mass (stuff in it) possesses a gravitational pull. That's why on Earth, where there is a large mass and gravity, things fall to the ground. Now you might think that on the shuttle astronauts are far away enough into space that they are out of Earth's gravity. Not so. The gravity at a few hundred kilometres above Earth is still very strong. So why don't astronauts just fall back to the ground, you ask?

They actually are. The reason why the astronauts don't reach the ground is that they are moving so fast in a forward motion that their falling follows the curvature of the Earth. When they fall, they keep falling -- around and around and around.

The astronauts don't feel they are falling either because everything around them (the spacecraft, the air around them, etc.) are also falling at the same rate!

 

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