The Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program provides a unique academic experience for undergraduate students to successfully propose, design, fabricate, fly and evaluate a reduced gravity experiment of their choice. The reduced gravity aircraft generally flies 30 parabolic maneuvers over the Gulf of Mexico. This parabolic pattern provides about 30 seconds of hypergravity (about 1.8G-2G) as the plane climbs to the top of the parabola. Once the plane starts to “nose over” the top of the parabola to descend toward Earth, the plane experiences about 25 seconds of microgravity (0G). At the very top and bottom of the parabola, flyers experience a mix of partial G's between 0 and 1.8 (called “dirty air”).
This is the second year that students from TCNJ have flown an experiment (but the first time I get to join them!) and you can view a video on the project here: http://science-education.pppl.gov/NJNNews_26SEP08_micrograv.mov.
If you watched the video then you already know that I had an undergraduate student from TCNJ in my lab last year and I suggested that he look into applying to the Microgravity University. His proposal was accepted and the 2008 team had four members. They got decent data that we're submitting for publication. The 2009 team has two of the veterans (the other two graduated) and 5 new members. This time, NASA invited me to serve as their flight mentor and I get to participate in all of the training exercises and fly with the team.
Our flight is spread out over two days, June 11-12, and I fly on the 12th. With roughly 30 seconds of weightlessness and 30 parabolas, that's 15 minutes of floating around the plane! Before that, we have training and classes to get us ready and time to set up our experiment before we load it on the plane.
I will post something every day and discuss the experiment, the preparation, and of course what it feels like to float in microgravity!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
This Wednesday I head off to Houston for 10 days with a team of undergraduate students from The College of New Jersey. The seven students and I are part of NASA's Microgravity University and will perform a physics experiment in microgravity aboard the "Weightless Wonder." Here's a brief description of the program from their web site.