Posted: June 7th, 2022

You are still orbiting earth, as one of the astronauts

You are still orbiting earth, as one of the astronauts on the International Space Station. In moving between compartments, you come to a complete stop and cannot reach any handholds.

Describe several approaches you might take to get moving again, and use the principle of conservation of momentum to assess how well or poorly each approach would work. How will you finally get to your destination on the station?

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Conservation Of Momentum In Space Station

A space station is a big satellite that is intended to be occupied by astronauts for long periods of time and serve as the base for manning scientific operations in space. The environmental conditions in space stations are different from the normal atmospheric conditions on earth. The international space station has zero gravity and handholds are used by the astronauts to facilitate movement (Becker, 2017). This paper illustrates the approaches an astronaut can take to get moving in case they cannot access handholds. Furthermore, this paper uses the principle of conservation of to evaluate how each of the approaches will work putting considerations to the principle of conservation of momentum. The astronaut should always have a clear understanding of how motion takes place in an international space station to avoid mistakes that may be fatal to the whole mission.

The principle of conversation of momentum can be stated as; the total momentum of two bodies before the collision is the same as the total momentum of the two bodies after collision provided the collision takes place in an isolated system (Brosing, 2014). The international space station is an isolated system hence the overall momentum in it remains constant always. Momentum is a product of mass and velocity which is a vector quantity thus momentum is also a vector quantity. This principle plays a critical role in relation to motion in the space station.

To begin with, the first approach the astronaut can take to get moving again in the case of losing handholds is by “swimming”. However, the buoyancy in the zero-gravity space is less compared to water (Kolev, 2015). Due to the frictionless issue stopping will be difficult when the astronaut reaches destination hence may crash on an object and according to the conservation of momentum principle, the collision may be elastic or inelastic. This approach is therefore not advised due to the numerous complications that come with it.

The other approach is that the astronaut can throw an object in his hands in the opposite direction with sufficient momentum to propel him/her to the destination. The reaction force produced by throwing the object will accelerate the astronaut in the opposite direction to the action force enabling the astronauts to reach the destination (Stenzel, 2016). According to the conservation of energy principle, this object will move with the same momentum and it may collide with vital components in the station and affect the operations. This approach is therefore not a suitable alternative in this scenario.

Another approach the astronaut can use to reach his/her destination is by getting near the walls and push against the walls towards their desired destination. The reaction force provided by the wall gives velocity to the astronaut. The astronaut can “bounce “from wall to wall before finally reaching the destination. This approach works in accordance with the conservation of momentum principle (Brosing, 2014). The approach is most preferred since the stopping changes are low and the risk of having objects floating in space is eliminated.

 In summary, the principle of conservation of momentum is critical in relation to motion in the space station. Various precautions are kept in place to ensure that motion is efficient and effective to ensure the success of the space mission.


Becker, B. a. (2017). Conservation of generalized momentum maps in mechanical-optical control problems with symmetry. Chicago: Chicago Publishers.

Browsing, G. a. (2014). The physics of everyday phenomena. New York: New York Press.

Kolev. (2015). Conservation of Momentum. New York: Springer International Publishers.

Stenzel. (2016). Whistler waves with angular momentum in space and laboratory plasmas. Califonia: Longhorn Publishers.

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