Feeling weightless in freefall with Skydive Tecumseh

Why Do You Feel Weightlessness in Freefall?

Friday, June 2, 2017

It’s hard to believe you can feel weightless while falling through the sky at 120 mph! But the reality is that skydiving does feel weightless, and it’s all because of gravity. Allow us to explain…

Contact forces vs non-contact forces

Before we can understand weightlessness, we must first understand the difference between a contact force and a non-contact force. Stick with us for this one… it’s not as complicated as it sounds!

 

Gravity is a non-contact force. It is a force acting upon us at all times, but it does not touch us. Gravity is also known as an ‘action at a distance’ force because it is acting on us from far away.

 

A contact force is, therefore, something that exerts a force on us, or touches us. So if you sit on a chair, the chair is exerting a contact force on you. That contact force is opposite to the non-contact force – the chair’s force is acting upwards on you, while gravity is pulling you downwards.

 

We feel our own weight when we have those two forces acting against each other. If we are in freefall, there is no contact-force, and therefore we feel weightless.

Are we really weightless in freefall?

Of course, the answer to this is ‘no’. There is no point where we cease to have weight. This is why the question of weightlessness, and the feelings therein, have no correlation with how much you know you weigh. A heavier skydiver and a lighter skydiver will both feel ‘weightless’ in freefall.

Other examples of weightlessness in practice

So if we accept that weightlessness is the absence of an opposing force on your body, we can look at other examples of weightlessness in practice. This will go some way to giving you an idea of how it feels to be in freefall.

 

We’ve already mentioned swimming. This is one common example where, if you’re floating (and not touching the floor) you will feel weightless.

 

Another example is when you’re on a roller coaster ride. You know that moment where you ride quickly over a peak in the ride, and you feel that weird sensation in your stomach? In that moment, you’re weightless.

 

This can even happen if you hit a speed bump going too fast in your car, but the biggest example is an astronaut orbiting in space; some people may believe that astronauts feel weightless because there is no gravity in space. However, the very fact that astronauts orbit the earth means gravity is acting on them.  So the reason for their weightlessness is actually the absence of opposing forces.

The challenge of describing freefall to a non-skydiver

It can be very difficult to describe freefall to a non-skydiver because the feeling is uncommon in our normal lives.

 

There’s nothing like it, though. The moment you leave the airplane is one of the most exhilarating moments you’ll ever experience. As your body accelerates through the air, reaching its fastest speed (terminal velocity) within seconds, you really do feel weightless, cushioned by the air.

 

You can find out for yourself! Book your skydive with us today to see what it really feels like to fly!

Skydive Tecumseh opens April 1, 2017

It was great. Went from 18,000ft. It was on July 2, 2016. It was my 2ndtandemm flight. I will definitely come back. Recommend Skydive Tecumseh to everyone it was a great way to start your day. I'm 63 and coming back every year. Very professional and friendly staff. I absolutely LOVED it.

Paul Davies