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How does air resistance affect the acceleration of a falling parachute?


How does air resistance affect the acceleration of a falling parachute?

Read: Find the acceleration when the velocity is 0.


Air resistance, or drag, opposes the motion of a falling parachute. Therefore, as the parachute descends, air resistance increases, counteracting gravity. This results in a net force less than gravity alone, reducing acceleration. The parachute reaches a terminal velocity where air resistance equals gravitational force, and acceleration ceases.


Let us assume you have a parachute, and you drop it from a height (space or tall building). As the parachute falls, it encounters something called “air resistance,” which is like the force of air pushing against it. Air resistance is like the wind pushing in the opposite direction of the parachute’s fall.

Thus, when the parachute is first dropped, gravity is the main force pulling it downward. Gravity is what makes things fall, like when you drop a ball, and it goes down because Earth’s gravity is pulling it. However, as the parachute falls, it opens up and catches a lot of air. Hence, this creates a force called air resistance that works against gravity.

At first, when the parachute is closed, it falls faster because there is less air resistance. But as soon as the parachute opens up, air resistance becomes stronger, pushing against the parachute’s fall. The more the parachute opens, the more air it catches, and the greater the air resistance.

Additionally, because gravity is pulling the parachute down and air resistance is pushing against it, they create a balance. The parachute doesn’t fall as quickly as it would without air resistance. So, we can see that air resistance slows down the parachute’s fall, affecting its acceleration.

Think of it like trying to run through water – the water slows you down. In the same way, air slows down the parachute. Without air resistance, the parachute would fall much faster, but because of air resistance, it falls more slowly, creating a gentler landing.