Episode 2: Gravity For Breakfast

gregwebb44Space Train

Doug and the Cadets take their first trip to outer space and learn about gravity. (Duration: 19:34) Theme music by Kevin Macleod – Incompetech.com. Want to listen offline? Click the download icon on the player above to download this episode to your device.

Episode 2: Gravity for Breakfast

Previously on Space Train, Doug and his Purple Rocket lost the rocket competition and Doug discovered a mysterious ticket to board the Space Train under his pillow.  And now, episode 2: Gravity for Breakfast

Doug was in a blissful sleep, dreaming about the flight of his purple rocket, when suddenly he was  awakened by a..

Doug shot up in bed. “What the?” He rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Colorful lights beamed through the cracks in the window blinds. They danced across his face and the wall behind him.

His eyes bolted to the alarm clock.

4 AM….SHARP

He fumbled under his pillow for the ticket and held it out for another look.

“SPACE TRAIN” he whispered.

That’s it, that’s the signal. He quickly tucked the ticket in his pajama pocket and ran for the front door. Before he opened it, he took a deep breath.

Doug’s jaw dropped. Floating mid air in his front yard was a shiny silver train. No wheels or tracks, just fans and vents keeping it hovering 5 feet off the ground. The colorful lights that lined the bottom made the grass beneath them glow. The door hissed open. And walking down steps that dispensed down to the ground was a shiny round person.

“Are you going to just stare at it or hop on?” said the person at the bottom of the steps. “Come along, we’re running a tight schedule and we’ve much to do.”

Doug was speechless. He just stared at the smooth silver train cars that stretched down the neighborhood and around the mailbox.

The man shrugged. “Looks like ya just came out for a look. Ta-ta then!” and he started back up the steps.

“Wait!” Doug ran up to him and handed him his ticket.

The man smiled. “Welcome aboard, Captain Colt,” he said as he tore the ticket stub.

Captain? Doug thought. Did he just call me…Captain?

Slowly he made his way up the steps which retracted back into the train behind him.

Inside, the train’s cabins were spacious, quite roomy. The first car was full of blinking lights, monitors, and panels. Towards the front were a handful of tall chairs. The round man who took his ticket sat in one of them. But a man he was not. Now in the light, Doug could see he was made completely of metal, a silver armor covered in geared joints and flickering panels. His round body came up to a pleasant round metal face with a golden curled mustache. “The name’s Goro, I’ll be your conductor, Captain.” he said.

“What are you?” Doug asked.

The metal man’s stiff mustache turned up as the little screen beneath it displayed a smile.

“I am a Third class A5000 advanced series pilot android, of course.”

Doug gave him a blank look.

“I’m a robot.”

“Oh.”

“Now, Captain, if you will please make your way to the rear cabins we will begin our ascent. I think it best we don’t make headlines in this morning’s news. So go on, the others are waiting for you.”

The Others?

Doug walked to a door that slid open once he reached it. When he walked through the other side he stopped.

“Lydia?”

“Doug!”

Lydia ran over and gave him a hug. The first time ever.

“What’s going on?” Doug asked.

“I-I don’t know I just got a ticket and then this showed up at my front door. Crazy isn’t it!”

“Uuuh yeah,”

“Come on, I’ll introduce you to the rest of the passengers!”

“Take your seats please! Preparing for take off.”

Doug and Lydia sat next to the others.

“Doug meet Dallas, Dallas this is Doug.”

A strong boy with wavy brown hair looked around the cabin like he was in a candy shop. “How fast y’all think this thing can go? A billion miles an hour?”

“Nice to meet you too,” replied Doug.

Lydia rolled her eyes and then pointed to a quiet skinny boy with curly blonde hair in the back who sat curled up, holding his knees. “His name’s Leo. I only know that because Goro told us. He doesn’t talk much.”

Doug nodded back to Leo, who only acknowledged him with a slight lift of his eyebrows.

“Hold on!” said Goro over the speaker.

BLAST OFF!

Everyone slammed back into their seats as the Space Train blasted off into the sky.

Doug could feel his cheeks being pulled back from the steep acceleration..

“Yeeeeehaw! Billion miles an hour, baby!” shouted Dallas.

Clouds whizzed by the windows that soon turned orange and looked like they were on fire. But before they could burst they were filled with darkness. Darkness sprinkled with twinkling lights. And then, the moon in all its glory. A perfect gray ball with shadowed craters.

And in a moment, Doug felt his arms lift by themselves. At first he thought he was just feeling things, but then his saw them float up passed his face on their own. Everyone started to gently float out of their seats. Lydia’s red ponytail lifted up over her head. Pretty soon, their backs were up against the ceiling and they were looking down at the cabin below them.

“Whoa!” said Doug.

Lydia laughed. “This is amazing!”

The door to the cabin hissed open and in floated Goro.

“Try not to move around too much,” he said, “I’ve turned off the gravity simulator so you

can get used to how space feels.” He floated up to the ceiling next to them.

“Gravity?” said Dallas who was busy twirling in the air.

“That’s right gravity, it is what keeps you on the ground when back on Earth. Every planet has it to some extent. The bigger the planet the bigger or stronger the gravity.”

Doug looked a little confused so Goro continued, “For example, Mars is smaller than Earth, so if you were to ride your bike off of a ramp on Mars you would go higher and take longer to come back down because the gravity there is weaker than it is on Earth. Up here in space, we are further away from the strength Earth’s gravity which would normally hold us to the ground. That is why you are experiencing weightlessness and floating like a feather.”

“Check it out!” Dallas bounced off the wall and did a trick, clearly not listening to a word Goro said.

“Pretty cool, Goro,” said Lydia.

“I will do my best to instruct you on the basics of space. That is part of why you are here.”

“Why else are we here?” Doug asked.

“Ah, only the bravest and brightest of children are chosen to board the Space Train. Apart from learning the ways of the galaxy, you will embark on missions for the good of your planet. Maybe even save it a time or two.”

“Why not pick our parents?” asked Lydia.

Goro’s stache shot up with a smile. “Because my dear, up here it is imagination that we need. The higher your mind is in the clouds the better. Adults minds are fogged by earthly experiences. Children are better able to adapt to the tricky situations of Deep Space. Dear me, where are my manners, shall I give you a tour?”

“Yeah!” they all said in unison.

“Hold on to something while I turn the artificial gravity back on.”

Goro pulled a lever making everyone fall back into their seats and making Dallas face plant it mid-flip.

“Ouch,” he said.

“Come along,” the kids followed as Goro led them into the next car. “Welcome to the Cosmic Cafe, this is where you will eat of course. Difficult to fix the universe on an empty stomach.”

The room was full of incredible smells and warmth that drifted from the cooking pots and pans. One station had a sign that read, “Cosmic Creamery” and was manned by a female robot that stirred cream in a blur, poured foreign chocolate treats into it, threw it into a box that turned it into perfectly sculpted sundaes, and then lowered a little metal hat over it that dropped a dollop of whipped cream on top.

Another station slowly turned bulks of juicy meat while robotic arms sprayed it with seasonings and sauces like an automatic car wash. There must’ve been 10 different stations! Everywhere Doug turned, a new delicious smell filled his nostrils.

“Moving along,” said Goro to groans from the kids. “In here we have the Train Rec – a recreation facility for all your diversion needs. Exercise is of the utmost importance in space.”

The spacious car had a basketball and tennis court, different sport simulators, and games that Doug had never even seen before. He couldn’t wait to try the home-run simulator with the wrap-around screen.

“Now that I’ve told you a little bit about gravity,” Goro started to say, “how about we have some fun with it!” He pulled a lever on the wall and immediately Doug and the others began to lift off the ground and float into the air.

“All right!” shouted Dallas.

Goro tossed them a basketball that floated towards them like a bubble. “Let’s see you play a game of basketball with no gravity. Doug, you and Leo will be on one team, Lydia and Dallas on the other.” He lifted a whistle to his digital mouth and blew. “Go!”

Dallas kicked his feet off the wall and flew for the ball. He grabbed it and bounced off another wall towards the basket.

“I got him!” said Doug, as he flew through the air like peter pan to intercept Dallas.

But before he could reach him, Dallas through the ball down into the hoop. SWISH!

“Woohoo!” shouted Lydia. “Nice shot!” she glided over to Dallas and gave him a high five.

Doug and Leo got the ball next.  Leo bounced it on the ground a couple of times and then threw it off the wall before Lydia could snag it. The ball ricocheted off the wall and floated perfectly into Doug’s hands who was waiting by the hoop. SLAM! He threw it down for a point.

Back and forth they went, Bouncing off walls and ceilings, passing and shooting the the hovering ball until it was tied, 10 to 10.

“Next point wins!” announced Goro.

Lydia ran sideways along the wall, bouncing the ball and juking Leo with a quick spin. The basket was wide open. She shot.

Halfway to the hoop, Doug glided in from nowhere and snagged it out of the air.

“Get him!” Dallas cried. But it was too late. Doug was already running along the ceiling and directly above the basket. He pushed off it and slammed it down into the hoop.

“Very good team. Now you know how it would feel to play a game without gravity,” said Goro. “Time we brought you back down and continued the tour.” He switched the lever and everyone landed hard on the court, especially Dallas who was practically at the ceiling when the lever was pulled. He landed with a thud.

“Seriously?” he said.

“Come on then, no time to lose,” said Goro, marching passed them.

The kids practically jogged to keep up him as he robotically continued his tour to the next room. “Through here we have the Planetarium. Perhaps the most important car of the entire train. It is here that you will be briefed on your missions and receive critical instruction to perform your duties.”

The room had a giant domed ceiling and below it were several tall chairs that lean back to face it. In the middle of the chairs was a large round table with a projector in the middle that cast giant images of planets and galaxies onto the round ceiling above. Images that put Doug’s little glow-in-the-dark stickers to shame.

Goro looked at the time on a screen in built-in to his hand. “Oh I’m afraid we’re out of time, the sun will rise soon and I need to get you back home before then. My how time flies.”

“But what’s through the other door?” Doug asked.

“What, there? Oh a number of other cabins I’m afraid you’ll have to wait to explore. And one you will never enter, nor entertain the thought of entering.”

Now he had Dallas’ attention. “Whoa wait, what are we talking about? Forbidden rooms?”

“The cabus. The very last car in the train.” Goro touched a button on the table and a projection of the car shone on the screen above. Warm light, smoke, and weird noises spilled through the bottom crack in the cabus’ door. “It is an area designated only for emergencies and is to never be approached. Your lives may depend on it. Are we clear?”

Everyone nodded. Even Leo, who had been silently trailing behind.

“Good.”

“What’s that?” asked Lydia.

Goro glanced down at a screen in his hand. After a few taps and a swipe he looked up. “It appears something has bumped into the Cosmic Cafe window. Quick, everyone to the command center.”

Goro and the group ran back to the command center where Goro took a seat and brought an image up on his screen. “Let’s see if I can grab it with the outer arms. Give me a moment and I’ll bring it in.”

They watched as Goro grabbed a joystick and controlled the robotic arms on the outside of the train to grab hold of the object and bring it through a trap door.

“Shall we take a look?”

Goro left the room briefly and then returned holding an odd plastic object in his metal hands.

“Does this look familiar to any of you?” Goro asked holding the object out for us to see.

Lydia gasped. “Doug! It’s your rocket!”

Sure enough, there in all its glory was the Purple Rocket – a little charred from its journey but miraculously still intact.

“No way,” Doug said under his breath.

Dallas didn’t look impressed. “Ummm it’s a soda bottle.”

Leo silently lifted his finger and pointed to a small object inside.

Goro scanned its contents with his eye scanners. “The boy’s right, it appears there is something inside.”

Lydia and Doug exchanged a curious look. Neither remembered there ever being anything inside the rocket. They stepped in closer while Goro unscrewed the cap and took out a piece of paper.

“Ha! A message in a bottle! Wouldya look at that!” said Dallas as he munched on a Cosmic Cookie he’d snuck from the cafe. How he had time to grab it while zipping down the conveyer belt was beyond them.

Goro scanned the message in the blink of an eye and then froze.

“Well, what does it say?!” said Lydia.

Goro handed her the paper and she brought in in close for both her and Doug to read.

“Dear Space Train,” she read aloud, “It has come to our attention that you have embarked on a new generation of crusades. Your trek has come at an opportune moment for us as we are in dire need of your assistance. At the rate of 20,000 gallons a minute, our water is drying up. Without it, our people and all life on this planet will become extinct. We beg of you Space Train Cadets, we have nowhere else to turn.

With the utmost respect,

Admiral Rizzo Rames of the Republic of Mars”

Lydia slowly put down the message.

“There’s…life on Mars?” said Doug.

“Oh yes, Captain,” said Goro, “You’ll soon learn there’s life everywhere. Congratulations, you have all officially received your first mission. Better get you home, you’re going to need plenty of rest.”

“We’re…going to Mars?” Lydia asked.

“Not yet, no. First you need to make it home in time for breakfast and then go to school. Tomorrow morning, same time, we will embark.”

Doug looked at the tall seats in the cockpit and finally noticed the names engraved on them. Each of their names stretched across a seat. The one closest to Goro read, “Captain Douglas Colt”. He’d never seen his name on anything before let alone a train that flies through space. He took his seat as did the others. And once they were all strapped in, Goro raced back to Earth.

Goro pushed the lever to pick up speed. “Let’s get you all a little Gravity for Breakfast.”

The train whizzed through neighborhoods, dropping everyone off at their doorstep and then zipping down the street. Goro pushed the train faster and faster, trying to beat the light from the rising sun.

Finally, they stopped and the door opened. Waiting on the other side was Doug’s little front yard. He walked down the dispensing stairs and stopped on the grass. “But what if -” he started to say, but when he turned around, the Space Train was gone.

The front door opened behind him.

“Doug? What are you doing out there?” came his dad’s voice.

Doug turned and looked at his dad.

“I just….” he wanted so badly to tell his father everything. To tell him about the train, Goro, and the message in his rocket. But he knew he couldn’t. After all, who would believe such a thing? “I just…came out to watch the sun rise,” he said.

His dad smiled, “Okay. Whenever you’re done, mom’s got some blueberry pancakes waiting for you.” And with that he went back inside.

Doug looked at his feet firmly planted in the grass that only moments ago floated like feathers in space.

After a long breath, he put his hand in his pocket and squeezed the silver ticket inside.

Discussion

Have a conversation with your child about gravity.

Definition: The force that attracts a body toward the center of the earth, or toward any other physical body having mass.

Demonstrate the effects of gravity by having your child jump up and down or throw a ball up in the air and catch it. Explain that gravity is what’s pulling them (or the ball) back down to the ground. If there wasn’t any gravity, when they jumped they would float away.

Activity

Galileo’s Gravity Experiment: Gravity pulls everything down equally

Have your child find objects of different sizes around the house. Make sure they are droppable items. (example: balls, pencils, a book, stuffed animals, etc.)

Ask your child to take two of these objects and predict which one will hit the ground first if dropped at the same time. Your child will likely guess the heavier object. Then have them experiment, dropping two different items at the same time. If done correctly, they should both hit the ground at the same time. Explain that Gravity is what causes all objects to fall to the ground and that all objects fall at the same acceleration.

But, only one thing can change that, air resistance. It is the frictional force that air exerts on an object moving through it. For example, when you stick your hand out the window of a moving car, that force pushing your hand back is called air resistance. When you make your hand a fist, the force decreases.

Air resistance can work against gravity in decreasing the acceleration of a falling object.

Have your child take a sheet of paper and drop it at the same time as the other objects. They will find that the paper takes longer to reach the ground than the other items. Explain that this is because of the paper’s shape. Because it is wide and flat it has more surface for the air to push against, thus more air resistance.

Have them take two sheets of paper and crumple one of them into a ball and then drop both pieces of paper at the same time. The crumpled paper will now drop faster than the sheet because the shape has changed and it no longer has as much air resistance.

crumpled paper

But what would happen in the vacuum of space? Galileo, a famous astronomer from the 1500’s, predicted that all objects would fall at the same time in the absence of air.

Watch the video below to see if his prediction was right!