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Space Is Slow Motion

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"Walk slow and stupid — we're on the Moon!"

Stuff happening in zero gravity requires a whole new outlook on the laws of physics as we're aware of them, but most writers ignore that and just make things move slower and floatier.

Never mind that in many circumstances, objects move faster in zero gravity since, obviously, there's no gravity to slow them down. If you kick off from a wall, you'll travel as fast your legs propel you. This trope presumably originates from footage of astronauts deliberately moving very slowly, because they know it's easy to let momentum get the better of you and hurt yourself bashing into something. It may also be a weird side-effect of Space Friction, or of writers' only personal experience of "weightlessness" being a dip in the swimming pool.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Averted by Gundam. Many of the series characters are born and raised in Space Colonies and are very comfortable in zero-gravity, and will jump and bounce off of walls/ceilings/floors with practiced ease to move around — and, of course, the zero-g space battles are generally fought at very high speeds. The only time slow-motion is going on is during docking operations, when precision is of the utmost concern.
  • Averted in Planetes when the crew barely manage to move a piece of debris out of the way of an oncoming spacecraft in time — said spacecraft flashes by very fast.

    Film — Live Action 
  • This trope gets its origins in popular media from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sure, everything is beautiful, but everything also moved at a crawl.
    • Justified with the workpods Frank and Dave use. They move very slowly, but you don't want to hurry when slinging a multi-ton pod around delicate exterior equipment. But when Frank is murdered by HAL he flails around wildly as he suffocates, and Dave bounces all over the airlock when he makes his famous Spacewalk Sans Helmet.
    • Also justified with the shuttle docking sequences (see the video below). When docking with the ISS in Real Life, it takes a couple of hours to cover the last hundred metres. There's a lot of very expensive equipment here doing a lot of very important things. Don't break anything.
  • Alien averts this trope when Kane's body gets a Burial in Space. Rather than a stately drift into space, the body is shot rapidly from the airlock.
  • A bizarre version is shown in Diamonds Are Forever when men in spacesuits are training to use a Moon Rover on a stage set outside Las Vegas. They move slowly according to this trope, which might be justified if they were making a publicity film, but when James Bond comes racing past pursued by guards, the astronauts slowly try to block his path, while Bond nimbly dodges their inept efforts.
  • Moon Zero Two: This is the effect of turning off the moonbase's artificial gravity, leading to a rather underwhelming Bar Brawl for a Space Western.
  • Played straight during the spacewalk sequence in Star Trek: First Contact.

  • Subverted at length (and with obvious relish from author Anthony Horowitz) in the space-set sequence that concludes the Alex Rider novel Ark Angel. The first thing Alex does in space is bang his head after getting up too quickly. At one point, he gets stranded in the middle of a room and has to throw his shoes to propel himself in the other direction (equal/opposite reaction, etc.). Later, he throws a hammer at an enemy, expecting it to drift slowly — instead, it zooms across the room and hits the guy very painfully on the shoulder.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Firefly pilot episode "Serenity", there is a scene in which Serenity is passing a Reaver ship in open space. They are both in transit between planets or moons, moving in opposite directions, but pass each other at roughly jogging speed. At that rate, it would take them (hold on, let's do the math, let's see, nuthin', and nuthin', carry the nuthin') roughly forever to get there.
  • The Flash (2014): Apparently, space is such slow motion that the Reverse-Flash is powerless in zero-gravity. They don't provide the plausible explanation of careful movement; they act like he's truly powerless.
  • Quite definitely disproved in MythBusters: flailing around and then slowing down the clip looks a lot different than actual zero-gravity movement.
  • Played so straight in Space: 1999 that they filmed moonwalking scenes in slow motion.

  • Brian Eno's album Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks was originally composed for a documentary about the moon landings. Many of the tracks have a slow, dreamy sound quality to them. One track is even named "Weightless".
  • This is what gave Michael Jackson's dance move the moonwalk its name. By moving backwards and forwards at the same time, it provides the illusion that the dancer is on the moon.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Jackie and Hak Foo end up fighting in space during the Moon Demon episode, and Hak Foo is forced to rethink his attack names. "Tiger prowls... through pudding? Turtle... fist! Sloth... kick!"

    Real Life 
  • Partial Truth in Television: Anyone who watches live feeds of space shuttles in orbit gets the impression that everything moves slower because when they rotate the position of the shuttle, they do it at a snail's pace to make sure they don't overshoot. Never mind that just to be in orbit, said shuttle is travelling around the earth at tremendous velocity...
    • It is often necessary to move carefully in space, thus slower. Explained in many Science Fiction novels as 'You may be weightless, but you still have mass'. While it may feel and even look like you're floating serenely through space like a feather, in reality you just launched yourself at an aluminum bulkhead, head first, at several miles per hour.
    • This is enforced by the fact that the maneuvering thrusters on the shuttle are really weak — emphasizing precision over speed. From a standing start, it would take the shuttle over five minutes to do a complete roll.


Video Example(s):


Space Station Docking

Take your time, relax, and listen to "The Blue Danube"

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5 (7 votes)

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Main / SpaceIsSlowMotion

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