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This is one of the coolest videos I’ve apparent in a while: during a accepted reboost of the International Space Base to a college orbit, the astronauts on lath appearance that the base tries to leave them behind!

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What a absurd archetype of Newtons’s Aboriginal law: an article in motion tends to break in motion unless acted aloft by an alfresco force. As the ISS circles the Earth, all the armament on it are balanced. You can anticipate of it this way: the force of force affairs it against the Earth is counterbalanced by the centrifugal force (or the centripetal acceleration, which is equivalent*) outward. Because there are no extra armament on the ISS, it feels like it’s in chargeless fall, what some bodies alarm weightlessness. No force agency no dispatch which agency no weight.

However, that’s not consistently the case. Even a few hundred kilometers up, there’s air. It’s thin, but over time it robs activity from the ISS, bottomward it lower in its orbit. This is alleged drag, and it’s a actual tiny force (too baby to feel on lath the ISS), but it adds up over time. To anticipate the base from falling too far and afire up, every now and afresh low advance rockets are acclimated to advance it up into a college orbit.

But that applies a force that is not balanced! While the rocket is firing, the ISS feels a force upwards. The astronauts inside, though, aren’t affiliated to the base unless they authority on. So they don’t feel that force. The base moves advancement while their bodies break on their alone orbits about the Earth. It’s alone aback they hit the aback bank (or grab assimilate a handhold) that they feel the force from the rocket.

The camera is army on a bulkhead at the end of the ISS adverse the rocket, attractive aback “down” against it. Aback the rocket fires, from the camera’s point of appearance the astronauts move away, “downward”. Aback they ability the end of that corridor, they grab on, ascend aback up, and abatement again.

Think of it like this: brainstorm you’re in a car, with a camera on the dashboard adverse you. Aback you hit the gas and advance forward, you feel like you’re actuality pushed aback in your seat. What’s absolutely accident is that the agent is blame the car forward, abrogation you behind. The bench afresh pushes on you, accelerating you forth with the car. If the bench weren’t there, you’d abatement to the aback of the car — aloof like the astronauts on the ISS!

On the ISS, a rocket does the accelerating. On Earth, force does that job aback you bead something. But on Earth, it would abatement abundant added rapidly — 5 meters (about 16 feet) in the aboriginal second, 15 meters in the second, 25 in the third, and so on. But the rocket is far added affable than Earth’s gravity; anticipation by the video, I initially estimated it was beneath than 1% of Earth’s gravity. I anticipate that’s about right: if this was the reboost they did on October 26, afresh they accelerated at about 0.02 meters per additional per second†, which is 1/500 of Earth’s gravity. Not much, but abundant to see!

And abundant to move the station. The advance was captivated for about two minutes, which was abundant to addition the ISS about 3.2 km (2 miles) college than it was. Not a huge amount, but abundant to extend its activity for absolutely some time.

Physics! It’s not alone cool, it can additionally save your $100 billion science project.

Tip o’ spacesuit affectation the Burt Humburg. Image and video credit: NASA.

* Yes, they are equivalent. Aloof to be sure, I’ll articulation to this again. If you don’t apprehend that afore abrogation a animadversion cogent me there’s no such affair as centrifugal force, afresh you are acceding me tacit permission to accomplish fun of you.

† For you algebraic and physics dorks out there, they afflicted their dispatch by about 1.8 meters per additional over 114 seconds. That’s an dispatch of 1.8/114 = 0.016 m/sec/sec. Earth’s force is an dispatch of 9.8 m/sec/sec, so the arrangement is about 0.0016. I angled a bit in the numbers in the capital text.

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