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Gravity Probe B

Testing Einstein's Universe

Special & General Relativity Questions and Answers

What is it like to be in a place with no gravity?

Most people think of 'weightlessness' as the state astronauts are in while orbiting the Earth, but in fact there is still gravity there, its just that it is exactly balanced by the centrifugal force of the spacecraft orbiting the Earth. You can still detect the gravitational field because it produces a 'tidal' effect even within the spacecraft.

Now, it is impossible to shield gravity so no matter where you are in the universe it can never go away. And it's a good thing to, because according to Einstein's general relativity, 'gravity' is just another name for the geometry of space and time. If you could eliminate gravity...then space and time would vanish too, and THAT experiment would definitely require an environmental impact statement to be filed by the experimenter with the EPA!

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All answers are provided by Dr. Sten Odenwald (Raytheon STX) for the NASA Astronomy Cafe, part of the NASA Education and Public Outreach program.