Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multi-potent, and the chondrogenesis of MSCs is affected by mechanical stimulation. The aim of this study was to investigate, using a rotary cell culture system (RCCS) bioreactor, the effects of microgravity on the chondrogenic differentiation of human adipose-derived MSCs (ADSCs), which were cultured in pellets with or without the chondrogenic growth factor TGF-beta1. In addition, we evaluated the role of the p38 MAPK pathway in this process. The real-time PCR and histological results show that microgravity has a synergistic effect on chondrogenesis with TGF-beta1. The p38 MAPK pathway was activated by TGF-beta1 alone and was further stimulated by microgravity. Inhibition of p38 activity with SB203580 suppressed chondrocyte-specific gene expression and matrix production. These findings suggest that the p38 MAPK signal acts as an essential mediator in the microgravity-induced chondrogenesis of ADSCs.