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December 12, 2003

Gretchen Cook-Anderson
Headquarters, Washington
202/358-0836

Julie Burt
Johnson Space Center, Houston
281/483-5111

Release: #H03-409

NASA Picks Students to Fly Aboard "Weightless Wonder" In 2004

NASA has selected student teams from universities coast to coast to fly on the agency's "weightless wonder" aircraft as part of the 2004 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program. The student teams are in for a buoyant ride in the spring as they conduct experiments on NASA's KC-135A aircraft based at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston.

The annual program allows undergraduate students to propose, design, fabricate, fly and evaluate a reduced-gravity experiment. This year, 69 teams have been selected.

"Building an experiment, flying that experiment and speaking to school groups about the experience is tremendously motivating for our undergraduates," said Donn Sickorez, NASA University Affairs Officer at JSC. "Many of them have since joined us here in Houston and others have gone on to technical jobs across the nation."

Schools with multiple teams participating during the 2004 session of flights include: Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta; Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana-Champaign, Ill.; Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.; Smith College, North Hampton, Mass.; University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, Minneapolis; New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, N.M.; University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore.; Portland State University, Portland, Ore.; Brown University, Providence, R.I.; Texas A&M; University, College Station, Texas; University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas; and University of Wisconsin at Madison, Madison, Wis.

The students prepare for an entire semester to spend nine days at JSC, where they attend briefings, undergo physiological training in the classroom and NASA's hypobaric chamber, and participate in a Test Readiness Review. The program culminates in a flight over the Gulf of Mexico, where the students conduct experiments in reduced gravity. Flying parabolas onboard NASA's KC-135A creates a weightless free-fall environment that lasts about 25 seconds. The experience is provided many times during each two-to-three-hour flight.

The university teams will be divided into six groups. The first team is scheduled to take off on March 4, 2004. Other teams will fly in March, April and July.

For a complete listing of the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program teams and schools on the Internet, visit:

http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov

For information about other NASA education programs on the Internet, visit:

http://education.nasa.gov

For information about NASA on the Internet, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov

 

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