Tag Archives: Pool

Microgravity at AstroCamp in the Summer

How do astronauts train for the microgravity of space when they’re on Earth? One well-used method is clever, effective, and simple: they use a pool! A water environment simulates the feeling of near weightlessness, or microgravity. It makes the perfect space to engineer, build, and get comfortable moving around in space-like conditions. NASA astronauts use the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston Texas. Bigger than an olympic sized pool, it contains over 6.2 million gallons of water! 

 

Buoyancy Lab NASA

Why does a pool simulate microgravity? It’s not that objects in water are pulled on by gravity less, because the amount of gravity is the same regardless of the medium you’re in. It’s just that water is more dense than what we’re used to being in, air. Because of this density difference, we feel another force opposing gravity. The buoyant force! We’ve all felt the buoyant force and seen buoyancy in action, even if you didn’t know what to call it. The buoyant force is the force that springs a beach ball to the surface when you shove it under water, the force that makes a helium balloon float in air, and the force that makes humans feel like they’re floating when they’re in water.

force buoyancy diagram

 In a pool, it’s buoyancy that opposes gravity, and effectively makes gravity feel less intense when we’re in it. As long as you’re in something denser than our average density, you’ll feel the buoyant force pushing up on you, and feel lighter! That’s why people float even more on saltwater than freshwater; saltwater is more dense. Our microgravity activity challenges campers in the same way astronauts are challenged in space. Their mission is to work together and build a “satellite communication system” with pipes and other pieces while floating and communicating without words.

 

underwater astronaut building

 After debriefing the mission to hear about the hardships and victories during their underwater adventure, campers may also have time to learn, hands-on, about the interesting physics of space and pool physics (think buoyancy, density, and pressure) with instructors. This activity is adapted to the needs of the group, to ensure each camper is sufficiently challenged but poised to succeed in the pool, both school year and summer. Lifeguards are on deck to supervise and create a safe space! There are many ways to do this class, but each camper should walk away feeling a little more confident working together, engineering in a unique environment, and with the experience of training like an astronaut in the AstroCamp pool! 

Micorgravity Success

Liquid Nitrogen Pool Exploration

CAUTION: DO NOT DO THIS WITH SOMEONE IN THE POOL! IT IS VERY DANGEROUS AS THE EVAPORATED NITROGEN DISPLACES THE OXYGEN IN THE AIR AND SOMEONE COULD SUFFOCATE AND POSSIBLE DEATH.

At AstroCamp, we love exploring and testing theories. So what do we do when we have excess liquid nitrogen from our summer camp program that will evaporate before we can use it again?  Why we do some experiments of course!  Our favorite recent experiment was dumping the left over liquid nitrogen into the pool.  We thought we were going to get a lot of condensation from the water vapor coming into contact with the cold liquid nitrogen.  What we forgot to take into account was the Leidenfrost Effect.  The Leidenfrost Effect occurs when a liquid comes into contact with a surface much hotter than it.  Because of the drastic change in temperature, the liquid that comes into contact with the surface boils near instantly.  But the boiled gas creates a buffer for the rest of the liquid and keeps it from evaporating for a while longer. In the pool, this allows the liquid nitrogen to spread across the surface of the water, expanding the fog until it nearly covers the pool entirely.  Stay tuned for future fun things to do with liquid nitrogen exploration!

WELCOME TO ASTRO BLOG

We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. AstroCamp is a hands-on physical science program with an emphasis on astronomy and space exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and astronomical happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree in Physics or Astronomy, however it is not uncommon for them to have a Masters Degree or PhD. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science, space and astronomy information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.astrocampsummer.org for additional information. Happy Reading!

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