Weightless Wonder

Dec. 14, 2006
Thirty-four undergraduate student teams were selected to fly and conduct experiments aboard NASA's "Weightless Wonder," reduced gravity aircraft, next spring.

Julie Kalista
Online Editor

Thirty-four undergraduate student teams were selected to fly and conduct experiments aboard NASA's "," reduced gravity aircraft, next spring. The teams will prepare themselves and their experiments for flight by participating in technical reviews and physical training.

Each proposed experiment was evaluated for technical merit, safety, and an outreach plan. Past proposals have included topics such as aviation, biology, medicine, and communications.

The "weightless wonder" is a modified McDonnell Douglas DC-9 that climbs steeply followed by an equally steep descent, producing 18 to 25 sec. of weightlessness at the top of the climb. Each team will have 32 parabolas to run experiments, with gravitational forces ranging from zero to one-third of earth's gravity.

"These students are being given the chance to experiment under conditions that cannot be replicated in any lab on Earth," says Donn Sickorez, the program's university affairs officer at Johnson.

Four of the teams have been selected for the program's first lunar gravity flights. These experiments relate to propulsion, areas NASA is investigating as it prepares for future lunar missions.

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