• Question: In space how can you tell what way is up? Does up even exist in space?

    Asked by xx_AstroBoy_xx to Simon, Julia, Delma, Andrew, Alex on 10 Dec 2015.
    • Photo: Delma Childers

      Delma Childers answered on 10 Dec 2015:

      Excellent question again, Astroboy! There isn’t really an up or down in space – it’s all relative to your perspective. On Earth we have gravity as a reference point for up and down. In space, you would need to decide on fixed reference points for up or down.

    • Photo: Andrew Winnard

      Andrew Winnard answered on 10 Dec 2015:

      No there is no up and down like we have on Earth. However on the space station they have chosen to make one surface the floor, one the cieling and two walls. The floor is typically the side facing Earth. This was done to make it easier to orientate everything. You will still find astronauts working on the cieling or being “upside down” in relation to the floor and cieling though.

    • Photo: Alexander Finch

      Alexander Finch answered on 11 Dec 2015:

      This is a problem for unmanned satellites as well – they don’t know which way they’re pointing a lot of the time because there’s no gravity to says which way is down. Instead – like sailors in the old days – satellites look to the sky: stars and the sun, to work out where they are and what way they’re looking. They can also look at the Earth sometimes and use magnetic compasses.