How NASA Studies The Effects Of Gravity
One of the topics that has kept NASA scientists intrigued for decades is the effects of gravity. Research conducted on earth and in space has focused on life with and without gravity.
Even on our home planet, there are certain certain anomalies in the gravity field. NASA has used the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) to map the earth’s gravity fields from space. This is accomplished by detecting density fluctuations that affect gravity.
NASA has used different fixed-wing aircraft to simulate a reduced-gravity situation. Vomit comet is the nickname for these airplanes. The Vomit Comet was used to train astronauts to handle reduced gravity situations, but several experiments were also run during the brief reduced gravity portions of the flight. Reduced gravity is achieved by flying in an elliptic flight path that creates a sensation of weightlessness on the ascending portion.
The possibility of life developing in reduced gravity situations provides many questions for NASA scientists. For this reason, many non-human organisms have accompanied space missions. Plants, ants and other insects, rodents, and other organisms have all made trips to space at various stages of life to study the effects on normal growth. Ants have been particularly popular due to low cost, small size, and easy containment.
Studies conducted on earth attempt to discover the effects of gravity on human life. Reduced gravity situations do not provide the normal downward pull on organs, tissues, and body fluids. Long-term studies have placed participants in situations in which this downward pull does not exist, such as experiments where participants are confined with their feet located slightly above the level of their heads.
Gravity is one of the best-known mysteries of the modern world, and NASA has embarked on multiple paths to attempt to understand the effects of gravity. Through these experimental methods, scientists are attempting to unravel the secrets of gravity.