Liquids in Microgravity

Grades 3-12 60 MIN
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Share with students an experiment that explores the effects of gravitational forces using materials easily found at home.

How do you drink a cup of water when you are in orbit and do not feel the pull of gravity? Students will start to understand the difficulties of carrying out everyday activities—such as drinking a glass of water, washing your hair, or even washing your hands while in space—and begin developing understanding around why these difficulties exist and how they can be solved.

Learning Objectives

  • Use observation to develop understanding around the effects of gravity.
  • Develop understanding around the gravitational force exerted by Earth compared to gravitational force exerted in space.

What You’ll Need

Hands-on

  • Water
  • Washcloth
  • Bottle of soda

Minds-on

  • Exploration
  • Curiosity
  • Observation

The simple act of pouring a glass of water from a pitcher needs gravity. The gravity pulls the liquid down in the pitcher and gives it a level surface. Tipping the pitcher brings the spout below that level surface, causing the liquid to flow out of it. Gravity then pulls the liquid downward and into the waiting glass. What do people do when they are in orbit and do not feel the pull of gravity? The answer took many years of study and design. Explore this lesson with students for a hands-on activity to build understanding of the effects of gravity.

  • What do people do with liquids when they are in orbit and do not feel the pull of gravity?
  • How might water behave on the International Space Station? What about soda and other liquids?

For Students

  • How might you design a container for an astronaut to drink out of from space?
  • Plan and conduct an investigation to compare the effects of gravity on different kinds of materials.
  • Based on evidence, write a persuasive argument that the gravitational force exerted by Earth on objects is directed down.

For Teachers

  • Consider how you might integrate this lesson into different content areas.
  • Have students identify other types of problems that might exist and need to be solved because of the lack of gravity in space.
  • Have students empathize with an astronaut and then, using the design thinking process, design a water bottle specifically to be used in space.
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