Originally posted by vivify
What is meant by the term "space is a vacuum"? In a vacuum, objects travel toward a certain direction; but how does this apply to space? Is there one particular direction that everything is traveling in?
Basically, why do people say space is a vacuum?
As pointed out vacuum is "empty space". And if we come to a struct definition it doesn't exist, since there is a phenomenon called "vacuum energy" or "quantum fluctuation" which is probably difficuklt to explain below 1000 words.
If we come to your definition of "unobstructed travel" we come to a diffferent definition. You can readily calculate the particle density of space via kinetic theory of gaes under which collision are less likely than any arbitrary value.
If we come to telluric vacuum technology you can achieve this quite easily if your condition is set that a collision with wall is more likely than a collison between moleuees. This is called the Knudsen region.
And for your last question i fact we talk about "vacuum" somwhat sloppily if in a given vessel the pressure is below the surrounding pressure. The is a somewhat qualitative scale for vacuum:
low vacuum (3 to 100 kPa)
medium vaccum (100mPa to 3 kPa)
high vaccum (100nPa to 100 mPa)
ultra high vacuum (100 pPa to100 nPa)
A vacuum cleaner is not really proving something considered "vacuum" by any physical standards. In space the pressure is much lower than achieveable on earth and such for all practial physical operations it is "vacuum"