For Mission 5 Student Researchers – A Challenge: Understanding Weightlessness – You Want Me to Take a Bathroom Scale Where?

I’ve heard a lot about this weightlessness stuff, with astronauts having a great time floating around. So I wanted to find out first hand what’s going on up there. Since they don’t have a spare seat on the next flight to low Earth orbit (at least not yet), I looked far and wide to find an amazingly tall mountain whose peak rises to the Space Station’s altitude in orbit so I could climb up and see for myself.

Station orbits the Earth about 260 miles (420 km) above sea level, and, by the way, crew and station are zipping along at 4.7 MILES PER SECOND (7.6 km/sec) relative to you sitting there at your computer. Bam. The Station just moved 4.7 miles. Really.

It took some Googling, but I found it! See my mountain in the picture? It accidentally got captured in an old Space Shuttle photo. Mt. Everest is only 5.5 miles (8.8 km) high. MY mountain (Jeff’s Peak) is 260 miles (420 km) high. I found it south of the Land of Make-Believe, down a not too well traveled path. Still, you’d think someone would have noticed it since it’s 47 times higher than Mt. Everest. Have you ever heard of Jeff’s peak? No? See, nobody knows about it!

So this week, I’m going to take the time to climb my mountain, and in my hand is my trusty bathroom scale, spring-loaded and guaranteed to be accurate at any altitude. I’ll camp out at the top, and I’ll wait until Space Station flies right by my mountain, so I can look in the windows and see if those lucky astronauts are weightless and floating around.

Here now the challenge—
As soon as I confirm they’re weightless in the Space Station, I’ll step on my bathroom scale to see my weight. If I weigh say 150 lbs (68 kg) when I’m standing on my scale in my bathroom at home, what will I weigh on top of my mountain?

Hint: You don’t actually need to calculate my weight. I’ll do that in the Solution to the Challenge. Your assignment—if you decide to accept it—is to guess what you think I’ll weigh and why. Hmmmm, lots of possibilities.

Post your guesses below, and remember to include why you think your guess is correct. Students of ALL ages are welcome to post a guess.

I’ll even give you until the end of the week to noodle on this in class, and at home with your parents, and then post your guesses. I’ll post the answer this Friday, September 20, 2013. See you then, and good luck noodling!

The solution to the challenge is posted HERE.

 


The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with NanoRacks LLC, working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS)Carnegie Institution of Washington, NASA Nebraska Space Grant Consortium, and Subaru of America, Inc., are National Partners on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.

118 Responses to For Mission 5 Student Researchers – A Challenge: Understanding Weightlessness – You Want Me to Take a Bathroom Scale Where?

  1. Jillian B September 19, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    I think he will still weigh 150 lbs because he is still on Earth and still has the same gravitational pull.

    • Jacqueline Valeri September 20, 2013 at 6:08 am #

      I think that a person who weighs 150 pds on earth would weigh 143 pds on a high mountain. I think this since the person on the mountain still has some of earth’s gravitational pull but losses a little because it is closer to the solar system.

  2. Hayley Gaskin September 19, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    I think he will weigh 35 pounds, because space is considered any hight above 100km. above Earth, but some reaserchers say space starts 600km. above Earth, in the Exosphere. The Exosphere is the outermost layer of the atmosphere.Since space starts 100km. above Earth the peak of the mountain is 320km.(260 miles) more than when space actually starts and he is way above Earth already in low gravity. So he would weigh a lot less.

  3. Sameer P September 19, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    I think that a person weighing 150lb. on top of a 260 mile high mountain weigh approximately 133 pounds. I am guessing this because as he goes higher in altitude the effect of gravity decreases. And 260 miles is relatively small compared to the size of the earth, the gravity force will not decrease drastically. I hope this answer is right!!!! I will not fail u Mrs Erban!!! I will not be denied!!!!!! sixth dimension rulleeessss!!!!!!

  4. Laila Ahlouche September 19, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    I think that you would wiegh less since you are in a higher altitude. Yet it wouldnt be that much of a difference. GO TEAM DISCO!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Laila Ahlouche September 19, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    I think that you would wiegh less since you are in a higher altitude. Yet it wouldnt be that much of a difference. Probably about 135-140 lbs. GO TEAM DISCO!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Erica J. September 19, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    I think that they would still weigh 150lbs because your not out of the planet you are just at a higher place.

  7. victoria willis September 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    I think he will way the same because the mountain is on Earth therefore the same amount of gravity is pushing down on him making him the same weight.

  8. ritchie nguyen September 19, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    i think is 420 kilograms high or 8.8 kilogram high

  9. Olivia f. September 19, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    I think that his weight will be the same because he is still technically on earth so the gravity is still the same so the weight is still the same because weight changes depending on your location and the amount of gravity so his weight would be 150lb

  10. Olivia S. September 19, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    I think that the weight will stay the same because you are on the same planet.

  11. Kaitlyn Bouchard September 19, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    I think he will weigh 24 lbs. After a project I did in class I knew my weight is much less on the moon. It all depends on how much gravity is on the mountain and the weight of the person. It’s hard to find how much gravity is on the mountain.I guessed depending on the gravity on the moon.

    I LOVE science!!!!!!!!!!! :)

  12. Aditi Rathor September 19, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    I think the weight will still be 150lbs because the gravitational pull (also known as weight) is going to be the same every place on earth. If you were on a different planet then the mass would change which means the gravitational pull would change too.

  13. Jeremy F. September 19, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    I think that he will weigh the same (150 lbs.) because technically he is still on the Earth at the peak of his 260 mile high mountain, but, if you’re zipping around the Earth in a spacecraft going at 4.7 miles per second at the same altitude of “Jeff’s Peak”, you should be weightless.

  14. Angelina Tawfeek September 19, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    I personly think you wil wiegh the same. Why? because youre on the same planet and your not in space. There is the same gravitional pull. Nothing is changing just because you may be in a higher lattitude. So I think the answer to this is 150lb. This is just my thoughts!

  15. Holly Silvestre September 19, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    I think that if the person did weigh 150 lbs on a bathroom scale in their house, then the person would weigh less because there isn’t such a strong gravitational pull up a 260 mile mountain.

  16. Nick s September 19, 2013 at 11:23 pm #

    You will be only 50-100 pounds because your mass doesn’t change and It is just like a roller coaster

  17. Lucas H September 20, 2013 at 6:46 am #

    I think the 150 pound person would weigh less on a 260 mile high mountain. I think that because the gravitational pull on top of a 260 mile high mountain is less so he will weigh less on the mountain.I think the man will weigh 120 pounds.

  18. Morgan September 20, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    I think the weight will be the same due to you still being on Earth and being subjected to the same amount of gravity, regardless of elevation.

  19. Kaitlyn September 20, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    I believe the weight will be 20 pounds less due to the height of the mountain. There will be less gravity at the summit.

  20. Joanne September 20, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    The weight will be less due to the elevation. I believe you would only weigh 50 pounds because of the extreme height.

  21. Don September 20, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    I think the weight will be same. I think this because wherever you go on earth, you weigh the same.

  22. Abdiel September 20, 2013 at 8:54 am #

    I think you would weigh less. I am not sure how much but due to the height of the mountain. If you go in reverse, to the bottom of the deepest ocean, the closer you get to the center of earth, gravity has more of an effect. With the extreme height, I think the opposite. I would say half of your weight?

  23. roberta September 20, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    S5 50 lbs Theyare close to space but still on Earth The gravitational pull is less,

  24. roberta September 20, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    S1 Group 1 0 pounds Heis out of the Earth’s atmosphere so there is no gravity.

    S1 Group 2 150 pounds He is still on Earth so his weight won’t change.

    • Cassie C. September 20, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

      You would weigh less,(Weight is how much gravity is pushing you down). If you were on a mountian on earth, you would weigh a little difference so if you are going on a mountain peaking out of the earth into the atmosphere, you will weigh less becasue the higher altitude there is, the less you weight. :) (Go 6D :D)

  25. Eric Drapeau September 20, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    I think he will weigh 135 pounds since if someone 100 pounds weighs 90 on the mountain 0.90 x 150 = 135

  26. haley gagnon September 20, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    i think he will weigh 100 pounds because he is still on earth so some of the earths gravity is still pulling down on him.

  27. haley gagnon September 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    i think he will weigh 75 pounds because he is still on earth so some of the earths gravity is still pulling down on him.

  28. jay wadhwa September 20, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    I think you will weigh 140 pounds because your not that far out.You still are on the earth….Mrs.Erban I tried

  29. Dylan Peckham September 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    If this guy weighs 150lbs on ground,then you have to do 150 times 0.17 witch is 25.5 meaning on the mountain this man will weigh 25.5lbs on this mountain. 6 Dimension!

  30. Cole Schmitt September 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    I did some research and found that where the space station is there is still .90 gravity. so i did the math and it came to 135.

  31. JAKE H September 20, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    You will way 129 pounds because there is gravity every where including space. The space station is close to earth so it still has some of earths gravity pulling on it. 6D ROCKS :)

  32. Emma S September 20, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    If the man weighs 150 lbs on earth he will weigh about 45 lbs on the mountain peek because he will weigh about 115 lbs less on the moon and he is closer to the moon than he would be on the ground

  33. roberta September 20, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    Science 2 100 pounds. The area is high similar to the moon so he would still have weight but it would be less than directly on Earth.

  34. Shelby H. September 20, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    You will have the same weight because in the sentence you say that the scale is accurate anywhere on earth. On top of the mountain, you are still on earth.

  35. Adrian September 20, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    You would weigh the same amount because you never left earth. It doesn’t matter how high you are.

  36. Joshua September 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Due to the altitude, you would only weigh a fraction of your weight. Gravity would be just enough to keep you on the mountain.

  37. Graycie Sp. September 20, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

    Your weight would not change becuase it says so in the story. The scale would still measure the same amount regardless of how you are.

  38. Alex P. September 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    Since the mountain is in make believe land, you would still have an atmosphere surrounding it. So, you would still weigh the same because you are on earth and the story says so.

  39. roberta September 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    science 3 75 pounds While they are still on Earth, they are higher than sea level so the gravitational pull is less.

  40. Paul September 20, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    I think he will weigh between 120 lbs-130 lbs because I feel that he is higher up and that is less gravitational pull that is making weigh less.

  41. Biana A. September 20, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    I think the weight will be the same because you are still on earth. Why would it change? He would still be 150.

  42. Gabby September 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    The weight is still the same for 2 reasons. First, is science based. You have not left earth and because of that, you wiegh the same. Second, the story says that the scale stays the same anywhere on earth.

  43. Claudia September 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    It will be half because you are so high up in space. Gravity would be half.

  44. Natalie K. September 20, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    I did some research and it told me that the farther away you are from the center of Earth there will be less gravity. When you’re going up into space to lets say the moon, you will get lighter. You get lighter because there’s not as much gravity. So when you’re on a mountain you will weigh less because you are farther away from Earth’s center then when you are at see level. (I hope I didn’t fail you Mrs. Erban!) : )

  45. Cassie C. September 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    (Sorry If im wrong Mrs. Erban! :/ )

  46. Amanda Hughes September 20, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    It would be around 115 lbs-125 lbs. Because he or she is closer to the moon than anyone else is on Earth. Sorry if i did not do it right Mrs.Erban but i know that i can trust you in science.

  47. Alex Moulson September 20, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

    I think that he will be about 130 pounds. One reason that I think that is because he is sill on earth, therefore there is still a gravitational pull. I don’t think that he will still 150 pounds because he is very high up and there is less gravity the further you go out into space. That is why I think he will be 130 pounds on that mountain…. P.S. Mrs.Erban rocks!! ( Team 6D )

  48. Jack George September 22, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    A person that weighs about 100 pounds at sea level would weigh about 95 pounds at the tip of Mount Everest, due to being farther away from the Earth’s core, you will weigh less. Mrs. McDermott ROCKS!

    • Jack George September 22, 2013 at 9:52 am #

      And also a person who weighs 150 pounds would weigh about 145 on Mount Everest

The Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP) is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) in the U.S., and the Arthur C. Clarke Institute for Space Education internationally. It is enabled through a strategic partnership with NanoRacks LLC, working with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. SSEP is the first pre-college STEM education program that is both a U.S. national initiative and implemented as an on-orbit commercial space venture.