Effects of Reduced Gravity

  • Aaron Harrinarine PersadEmail author
Living reference work entry


The acceleration due to Earth’s gravity is called a 1 g environment. Humans are well adapted to living in 1 g since, through observations and experiences, they have developed an innate intuition of how the natural world behaves. For example, it is known that liquids will settle to the bottom of their containers, that objects thrown will follow a parabolic path as they fall toward the ground, and that the flame of a birthday candle will burn with familiar color and shape. However, the near-weightless environment can affect both physical and life processes and cause them to behave in seemingly counterintuitive fashions. This chapter focuses on near weightlessness and its effect on the behavior of several physical and life processes that are important to life support systems in spacecraft and habitats. Physical processes that will be discussed include fluid configurations, thermodynamic stability, aggregation, surface tension, and thermocapillary flow. Life sciences discussions will include human physiology, locomotion and perception, and plant biology.


Atrophy Boiling Buoyancy-driven convection Capillarity Gravitational force Homeostasis Near weightlessness Water recovery Statocytes Thermodynamics 


  1. Anderson JD, Schubert G, Trimble V, Feldman MR (2015) Measurements of Newton’s gravitational constant and the length of day. Eur Phys Lett 110:10002CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arfat Y, Xiao W-Z, Iftikhar S, Zhao F, Li D-J, Sun Y-L, Zhang G, Shang P, Qian A-R (2014) Physiological effects of microgravity on bone cells. Calcif Tissue Int 94:569–579CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bagley JR, Murach KA, Trappe SW (2012) Microgravity-induced fiber type shift in human skeletal muscle. Gravit Space Biol 26:34–40Google Scholar
  4. Brennen CE (2008) Flow patterns (Chapter M7). Lecture slides in PDF format.Google Scholar
  5. Brooks M (2009) Gravity: seven unanswered questions about nature’s most familiar force. New Sci 202:28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chopard A, Hillock S, Jasmin BJ (2009) Molecular events and signalling pathways involved in skeletal muscle disuse-induced atrophy and the impact of countermeasures. J Cell Mol Med 13:3032–3050CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Clement G, Wood SJ (2014) Rocking or rolling – perception of ambiguous motion after returning from space. PLoS ONE 9:e111107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohu CM, Lombardi E, Adams WW III, Demmig-Adams B (2014) Increased nutritional quality of plants for long-duration spaceflight missions through choice of plant variety and manipulation of growth conditions. Acta Astronaut 94:799–806CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dailey CM, Reinholtz C, Russomano T, Schuette M, Baptista R, Cambraia R (2014) Resistance exercise machine within lower body negative pressure for counteracting effects of microgravity. Gravit Space Res 2:94–107Google Scholar
  10. Deegan RD, Bakajin O, Dupont TF, Huber G, Nagel SR, Witten TA (1997) Capillary flow as the cause of ring stains from dried liquid drops. Nature 389:827–829CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Diedrich A, Paranjape SY, Robertson D (2007) Plasma and blood volume in space. Am J Med Sci 334:80–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Drudi L, Grenon SM (2014) Women’s health in spaceflight. Aviat Space Environ Med 85:645–652CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Duan F, Ward CA (2005a) Surface excess properties from energy transport measurements during water evaporation. Phys Rev E 72:056302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Duan F, Ward CA (2005b) Surface-thermal capacity of D2O from measurements made during steady-state evaporation. Phys Rev E 72:056304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fang G, Ward CA (1999) Temperature measured close to the interface of an evaporating liquid. Phys Rev E 59:417–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ghasemi H, Ward CA (2010) Energy transport by thermocapillary convection during sessile- water-droplet evaporation. Phys Rev Lett 105:136102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gibney E (2014) Rivals join forces to nail down Big G. Nature 514:150–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hackney KJ, English KL (2014) Protein and essential amino acids to protect musculoskeletal health during spaceflight: evidence of a paradox? Life 4:295–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Haeuplik-Meusburger S, Paterson C, Schubert D, Zabel P (2014) Greenhouses and their humanizing synergies. Acta Astronaut 96:138–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hoson T, Wakabayashi K (2015) Role of the plant cell wall in gravity resistance. Phytochemistry 112:84–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hu H, Larson RG (2006) Marangoni effect reverses coffee-ring depositions. J Phys Chem B 110:7090–7094CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hughes-Fulford M (2002) The role of signaling pathways in osteoblast gravity perception. J Gravit Physiol 9:P257–P260Google Scholar
  23. Kim J (2003) Review of reduced gravity boiling heat transfer: US research. J Jpn Soc Microgravity Appl 20:264–271Google Scholar
  24. Kordyum EL (2014) Plant cell gravis sensitivity and adaptation to microgravity. Plant Biol 16:79–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Love SG, Pettit DR, Messenger SR (2014) Particle aggregation in microgravity: informal experiments on the International Space Station. Meteorit Planet Sci 49:732–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Marshall-Bowman K, Barratt MR, Gibson CR (2013) Ophthalmic changes and increased intracranial pressure associated with long duration spaceflight: an emerging understanding. Acta Astronaut 87:77–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McQuillen J, Rovito S, Jenkins D (2003) Two-phase flow in a microgravity environment. Page last accessed June 2015
  28. NASA (2008) Recycling water is not just for earth anymore. Page last accessed June 2015b
  29. NASA (2011) International Space Station imagery. Page last accessed June 2015c
  30. NASA (2012) Water: a chemical solution. Page last accessed June 2015a
  31. National Weather Service (2010) The hydrologic cycle. Page last accessed June 2015
  32. Nelson ES, Mulugeta L, Myers JG (2014) Microgravity-induced fluid shift and ophthalmic changes. Life 4:621–665CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Norsk P, Asmar A, Damgaard M, Christensen NJ (2015) Fluid shifts, vasodilatation and ambulatory blood pressure reduction during long duration spaceflight. J Physiol 593:573–584CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Okamura M, Hirose T, Hashida Y, Ohsugi R, Aoki N (2014) Suppression of starch synthesis in rice stems splays tiller angle due to gravitropic insensitivity but does not affect yield. Funct Plant Biol 42:31–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Peat C (2015) Height of the ISS. Page last accessed June 2015
  36. Sasges MR, Ward CA, Azuma H, Yoshihara S (1996) Equilibrium fluid configurations in low gravity. J Appl Phys 79:8770–8782CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Shanahan MER (2011) On the behavior of dew drops. Langmuir 27:14919–14922CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Shanahan MER, Sefiane K (2014) Recalcitrant bubbles. Sci Rep 4:4727CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Smith SM, Abrams SA, Davis-Street JE, Heer M, O’Brien KO, Wastney ME, Zwart SR (2014) Fifty years of human space travel: implications for bone and calcium research. Annu Rev Nutr 34:377–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Takahashi H, Higashibata A, Fujii N, Miyazawa Y, Kamata G, Kobayashi H (2015) Dynamism of auxin efflux facilitators, CsPINs, responsible for gravity-regulated growth and development in cucumber (CsPINs) – 05.13.15. Page last accessed June 2015
  41. Tona Y, Taura A (2014) Chapter 8: Otolith. In: Regenerative medicine for the inner ear. Springer, Japan, pp 67–74Google Scholar
  42. Veen SJ, Antoniuk O, Weber B, Potenza MAC, Mazzoni S, Schall P, Wegdam GH (2012) Colloidal aggregation in microgravity by critical Casimir forces. Phys Rev Lett 109:248302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Ward CA, Rahimi P, Sasges MR, Stanga D (2000) Contact angle hysteresis generated by the residual gravitation field of the space shuttle. J Chem Phys 112(16):7195–7202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Weislogel MM, Graf J (2015) Capillary effects of drinking in the microgravity environment (capillary beverage) – 05.20.15. Page last accessed June 2015
  45. Weislogel M, Robinson J, Warren L (2011) The advantage of laboratory time in space. Page last accessed June 2015
  46. Wikimedia Commons (2009) Earth G force. Page last accessed June 2015
  47. Wood A (2014) King’s College London develops skinsuit to prevent muscle and bone loss in space. Page last accessed June 2015

Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Astronauts for HireHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Thermodynamics and Kinetics Laboratory, Department of Mechanical and Industrial EngineeringUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations