Big Picture Science – Getting a Spacelift: C.C. Culver

by Gary Niederhoff on February 6, 2012

Part 4 of Getting a Spacelift, featuring C.C. Culver, former NASA mission controller, motivational speaker with International Stars, and ticket holder for a seat on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. You can contact her at internationalstars [at]
(TRT 7:53)

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avatar James Vokac February 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm

I heard C.C in Big Science and she said the closest she was to the sensation of weightlessness was floating in salt water – but she was much closer when she was in “free fall.”
Any time she was falling through the air (slowly enough so that air friction was negligible) she was in free fall – just like in space. Unlike floating in which you are supported all over, in free fall you are not supported at all. Floating in salt water feels different than standing on land because on land you are supported over the small area of your feet. The phrase “weightless” is misleading. Gravity still pulls on everything in orbit – if not they would travel off in a straight line – the only sense in which they are weightless is that they can not be weighed. To be weighed you need to be supported e.g. stepping on a scale and having the floor exert a force to support the scale which then supports you. If the floor suddenly was taken away the scale and you would fall together and the scale would read “zero.” Gravity still pulls on you, so you still weigh the same as before the floor was removed, but you are in free fall. Orbiting the Earth is a form of free fall. The closest we come to that is when we are falling, even if that is near the surface of the Earth.

Good luck in getting your space flight.

Jim Vokac

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