Feature

My Teacher is Weightless!
06.10.04
The Teacher

When teacher Alissa Kuseske was 8 years old her family traveled to Florida. While there they visited NASA's Kennedy Space Center. After visiting the space exhibits and museum, young Alissa was 'bit' by the space bug. She fell in love with space and NASA. That love is still alive today.

As she grew up, she kept her love for all things having to do with space. She built models with her dad, and collected NASA mission patches. When she was older, she decided to become a teacher. She knew she could help her students become excited about science and space. All of her friends and relatives thought she was 'crazy about space'!
Alissa Kuseske and others unboarding a plane


Image to left: Alissa Kuseske smiles as she leaves the KC-135. Credit: NASA

Mrs. Kuseske's school was chosen as a NASA Explorer School. Her school was then chosen to be in a special program that would let teachers fly a class experiment on NASA's KC-135. Mrs. Kuseske and her students came up with a great experiment to fly on the KC-135.

After having loved space and NASA for so many years, Mrs. Kuseske was able to fulfill one of her lifelong dreams. She was going to Houston to train for her flight just like astronauts.

Sixth Grade Scientists

When the students found out their experiment was chosen to fly, they were very excited. A lot of work had gone into the proposal they sent to NASA. Mrs. Kuseske's class had brainstormed for two hours to come up with an idea of what experiment to do. It had to be a new and original idea. They could not test something that had already been done.
Alissa Kuseske and the spinning experiment for her class


Image to right: Mrs. Kuseske testing the spinning experiment for her students. Credit: NASA

Mrs. Kuseske's class decided to investigate models and designs that featured spinning tops. They wanted to find out what spinning is and how to know if something is spinning. They brought in lots of items from home and spun them. Some items spun a long time. Other items didn't spin very well at all. They put together a design about spinning tops and how they spin on Earth versus in weightlessness. After a lot of hard work, they sent their proposal to NASA.

A lot of schools sent in ideas to NASA, but not every class that sent in something would be chosen to fly. Mrs. Kuseske's class had to wait just like everyone else, but when they got the news it was incredible. They had designed one of the accepted experiments, and Mrs. Kuseske was going to fly with NASA!

"How cool is this?" asked Mrs. Kuseske. VERY!

Weightlessness!

After they got to Houston, all of the teachers went through the same training that astronauts go through. First they had program orientation and then physiological training in a hypobaric chamber.
Alissa Kuseske in a pre-flight test


Image to left: All of the teachers went through the same training as astronauts. Credit: NASA

Next was a review to make sure that all parts of the experiments were ready for flight. Then the excitement began! The teachers divided into two groups and over a 2-day period flew like the astronauts!

A typical KC-135 mission is 2 to 3 hours long and consists of 30 to 40 parabolas or arcs. These arcs can be flown one right after the other, or with short breaks in between to re-set test equipment. During each arc there are 20 to 25 seconds of weightlessness.
Image showing the flight path of the KC-135


Image to right: When the KC-135 goes 'over the top' of the arc, 20-25 seconds of floating time begins. Credit: NASA

And what did teacher Alissa Kuseske think about her time being weightless?

"Astronaut Dan Barry gave me this advice before I flew on the KC-135 'Remember to take the time to make the memory.' I took the time to look around the cabin when Flight Director John Yaniec yelled those three spectacular words, "Over the top!" I took the time to memorize the feeling of the body floating so I could bring the memory back to my students and family.
Alissa Kuseske floating onboard the KC-135


Image to left: Mrs. Kuseske wanted to memorize the feeling of floating to share with her students. Credit: NASA

It really was important to me to get it right; I didn't want to miss a second. This was my dream, and it could very well be a student's dream in my classroom or school. I wanted to make sure I made my time in the KC-135 count. I could not let my students down."




Related Resources
What's the Vomit Comet?
Inside the Vomit Comet
Ups and Downs on the KC-135