How does Centripetal Force work in a Space Station?

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tjbrewer | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Centripetal Force in a space station is a way of generating Artificial Gravity. 

If you go to a fair, look for a ride that looks like a flying saucer, and spins around very fast, ride in it and you feel like it turns on its side, but it didn't.  You can literally stand sideways.  That is artificial gravity, also called G-force.  The centripetal force inside the ride is about 1.5 G, or 50% stronger than Gravity. 

If you can't go to the fair, put a bucket of water on a platform suspended from ropes, and hold the end of the ropes in your hand.  Start spinning the platform vertically, and you won't spill the water because the centripetal force is holding the water in the bucket, and holding the bucket against the platform.  Just make sure you can afford to spill the water when you're done, because loss of centripetal force almost always causes the bucket to slide off the platform. 

The International Space Station doesn't use this to generate artificial gravity, because it's inhabitable sections are too small for this to be practical, and part of its mission is observation.  Observation requires you to be able to see out, and if you saw how fast you were spinning, you would quickly grow dizzy.  Making a craft or station with Artificial Gravity is still years in the future.  But who knows, maybe you are the one who will invent it. 

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