Improvised Microgravity Maneuvering
A form of MacGyvering
where the hero creates thrust to push him/herself through the microgravity of space with something other than a standard engine. Of course, since there's no air resistance in the vacuum of space, almost anything will do. Thank you, Newton's Third Law!
One common version is to use your airtanks for this, which has bonus dramatic possibilities
, because if it doesn't
work, you now have less air than when you started.
open/close all folders
- When the Fantastic Four were stuck in space thanks to the Baxter Building being launched into space (and then blown up) Reed Richards had Sue, who was keeping them all alive with her forcefield, open up a very small hole in said field. It let a little of their air out, but very slowly—and helped them get back to terra firma.
- Power Pack has a variation—though not done in space, Alex manages to push himself around while degravitized using just about anything he can find with a spray nozzle, though he gets the most mileage out of a fire extinguisher.
- Some Marvel Star Wars comics have firing blasters as propulsion.
Films — Animated
- In Titan A.E., Captain Korso used a fire extinguisher to maneuver.
- WALL•E, also with a fire extinguisher.
- In-atmosphere example: Russell from the movie Up used a leafblower to propel himself while he was "technically" weightless, having several balloons tied to him.
Films — Live-Action
- In Event Horizon, one of the characters, stranded outside the ship, uses the remaining air in his spacesuit as a rocket in order to get back to the air lock.
- In Like Flint. Derek Flint uses a "sonic amplifier" to maneuver in space. Did I mention he's IN SPACE, which is a vacuum?
- Impossible? Of course it's impossible! That's why he's Flint!
- In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dave Bowman uses the explosive decompression of the air inside his travel pod to return to the Discovery's airlock.
- Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay; Harold has the only parachute, and he tells Kumar to "swim" in the air, so Harold can catch him, then open the parachute and save both their lives. It's not space, but they're in freefall, so that counts as microgravity.
- In The A-Team, the team uses the main gun of a TANK to maneuver the plummeting armored vehicle so it hits water instead of land. If the above Harold and Kumar counts, this should too. It's also utterly impractical but also Crazy Awesome.
- In Destination Moon, one astronaut turns an oxygen tank into an improvised thruster jet to rescue an adrift crewmate.
- In The Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps the protagonist has an Imagine Spot in which he's floating inside a space capsule and must press an out-of-reach button. He manages to propel himself across the space by farting.
- In Sunshine, the crew escapes the Icarus I by opening the airlock and letting the escaping air blow them across the gap, similar to the scene in 2001.
- Gravity. A fire breaks out on the International Space Station, and when Ryan Stone tries to extinguish it the thrust of the extinguisher slams her against the bulkhead, knocking her unconscious for a moment. This becomes a Chekhov's Gun when she later uses the extinguisher to maneuver herself to another space station. And when the charge in THAT runs out, she flings it away to propel herself the few precious inches needed to grasp her objective.
- In the Isaac Asimov short story "Marooned Off Vesta", the characters maneuvered by cutting a hole in a water tank and using the escaping water as thrusting mass.
- In Poul Anderson's short novel The Makeshift Rocket (also known as A Bicycle Built for Brew), the hero used a goofball contraption consisting of a spacesuit, several lashed-together crates, and a rocket motor that uses the gas from agitated beer barrels for propulsion.
- Arthur C. Clarke's novel The Sands of Mars featured an astronaut who once managed to stop and get stuck in the middle of a room. He eventually started throwing clothing the opposite way. That and a very badly timed VIP tour explain why he's stuck in the space boonies during the events of the novel.
- During the climax of Ark Angel, Alex finds himself unable to reach anything while floating around on a space station, and resorts to taking his shoes off and throwing them.
- In the Gaea Trilogy, while not in space, the hub of Gaea is basically in zero gee. To escape from it near the end of Wizard, Cirroco throws every object she was carrying in the opposite direction — and curses herself for throwing her gun without firing its ammo first. It's a good thing she didn't, though, because at the end of her ride she's headed toward the ground too fast.
- One Bolo short story had a Bolo use the recoil from its Hellbore as a propulsion unit.
- In Larry Niven's novel The Integral Trees, the tree-dwellers occasionally use high pressure "spitter" seedpods (that shoot seeds out once they are broken open on one end) as rocket motors.
- In Jack McDevitt's Chindi, the protagonists have to catch an alien ship that's traveling faster than any human ship can, so they strap a ship to a huge boulder (small asteroid), and then release it in hyperspace, which gives them just the boost they need.
- In Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, said elevator finds its way into orbit with Charlie and his family inside. They try swimming at first, then Mr. Wonka suggests they try blowing in order to jet themselves about.
- In "Equipment", a short story accompanying the novel Shatterpoint, a number of Republic troops find themselves adrift in space after their Drop Ship is shot down trying to reach the planet below. Harassed by enemy fighters, they have to fight back with what they have, and some of the drop troops use their repulsor-driven Jet Packs as propulsion.
- In the Donald A. Wollheim juvenile "The Secret of Saturn's Rings" not only does young Bruce Rhodes cross the Cassini Division from his wrecked spacecraft to where his father is stranded with nothing but a tank of helium, he finishes up his journey by JUMPING from ring particle to ring particle.
Live Action TV
- In the Doctor Who serial "Four to Doomsday", the Fifth Doctor threw a cricket ball in one direction in order to move himself in the other.
- Particularly, he threw the cricket ball at the ship, pushing him away from it and towards the TARDIS (which, thanks to Adric, was floating along the spaceship), and then caught the ball on its return trajectory, giving himself a further speed boost.
- John Crichton maneuvered himself with a pulse rifle on Farscape.
- In the pilot for Come Back Mrs Noah, Mrs Noah maneuvers in Zero G by spritzing her perfume sprayer.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause and Effect" the Enterprise is stuck in a time loop while everyone tries to figure out a way to maneuver it using non-standard thrust. (Of course the real problem was that once they learned that they were 30 seconds from collision, they spend the next 25 seconds talking about what they should do.)
- Mission: Impossible: In "Target Earth", Shannon is set adrift in space. She uses the purge valve on her spacesuit to bleed air out of her air tanks and propel her back to the shuttle.
- In NetHack, you can propel yourself backward while floating by throwing an item.
- In The Journeyman Project 2: Buried in Time, the only way to reach the Amarax Station from your jump point is to use an aerosol can of Cheese Girl to propel yourself toward the station.
- Players in Space Station 13 may sometimes be forced to do this. They have a tendency to fail.
- In Freefall, Sam had difficulty maneuvering when he first went into space, but he came up with two solutions involving duct tape. First, Florence gave him a stick with duct tape wrapped around the ends for pushing off of surfaces. Later, when he was caught without his stick, he resorted to wrapping duct tape around his hands to climb along walls.
- His robot Helix turned off the electromagnets in his feet and used his coolant fan for thrust. (This left very few options for steering or braking.)
- Used in Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life, after an accidental ejection from a car. It will take a while.
- Perry the Platypus used two aerosol spray cans like this once, to get out of a pit.
- One episode of Rescue Heroes had one of the characters vent the air from his spacesuit's backup oxygen tank.
- Black Dynamite did this in one episode after America's Most Loved Black Man, O.J. Simpson, tricked him into going into space. His rocket exploded and he had to get himself to an abandoned Soviet space station, so he fired his big-ass revolver in the opposite direction.
- Dogstar: In "Twice the Excitement", Simone is trapped outside and drifting away from the Valiant. Gemma throws a rock that opens the valve on Simone's oxygen tank, propelling her back to the ship.
- One hypothesized way to do this, if you're in a sufficiently curved space time, is to swim! Unfortunately, it is almost unimaginably slow.
- A famous orbital mechanics problem about this goes: if you're stranded 50 feet behind the space shuttle with only a wrench to maneuver with, how can you get back to the shuttle? If you were in deep space, the correct answer would of course be to throw the wrench away from the shuttle, causing you to drift slowly toward it. The space shuttle is in near-Earth orbit, however, and it turns out that this means the correct answer is to throw the wrench toward the shuttle; this will drop you into a lower (and thus faster) orbit than the one the shuttle is in, allowing you to catch up with it.
- Might be a good idea to prepare yourself to do a lot of spitting, peeing and possibly amputating.