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Question:
If a helium balloon was released inside the space shuttle, what would be its reaction. Can it go UP? when there is no true up? Assume it has no leaks. Thank you.



Replies:
Hi Tobias: Thanks for the question. If we assume that there is no gravity in the space shuttle that orbits the earth (of course there is some gravitational acceleration, even though it may be small), then you should notice no d difference between the motion of a balloon that contains helium and one that contains air. The principle that is used to model a balloon that rises when it contains helium on the earth is named after a Greek scientist (Archimedes). His principle states that the buoyant force (the force that an object would feel opposing its own weight) is equal to the weight of displaced fluid. The weight of an object is defined as the mass times the acceleration of gravity. Though matter always has a mass, it may not have a weight if the acceleration of gravity is zero. Therefore, both the buoyant force on and the weight of an object is zero in a place where the acceleration of gravity is zero, regardless of what is contained within the object. I have discussed this rapidly to fit it on one page. If you have another question, please feel free to ask.

Dr. Dave



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