Microgravity

A candle flame in weightlessness. Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
A candle flame in weightlessness. Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)
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Analysis in the drop tower

What is weightlessness? What is gravity? What is weightlessness? What is gravity? Why does an apple on Earth fall to the ground and float away from an astronaut on the International Space Station? Isaac Newton wrote it: The masses of two objects gravitate towards one another. Gravity defines planets’ orbits and the structure of the universe. How can we influence this force? Can it be overcome completely here on Earth? What consequences would this have on objects in weightlessness?

Research in weightlessness – sometimes the only road to success

Astronaut Susan J. Helms on board the ISS. Credit: NASA
Astronaut Susan J. Helms on board the ISS. Credit: NASA

Because gravity masks many phenomena, experiments in weightlessness can be the only way of explaining them. The physical effects of gravity, for example, can only be discovered in an environment without it. This is an essential prerequisite if we are to find out how living organisms perceive gravity, how casting processes for modern metal alloys might be optimised and how visual perception in humans is dependent on our sense of balance. Research in weightlessness extends our knowledge of life on Earth.

Counting down to the free fall

Drop capsule with a wireless camera. Credit:  DLR
Drop capsule with a wireless camera. Credit: DLR

How can we experiment in weightlessness? Try it yourself! In a miniature drop tower we achieve 0.6 sec of weightlessness over a distance of 2 metres. Will this short period of weightlessness influence a candle flame or water? With the help of a video system you will be able to watch your experiments in slow motion. At the end of the experiment, you will understand the physical characteristics of weightlessness and also know how an astronaut manages to empty a liquid out of a container without losing a single floating droplet.

 

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