Johnson Space Center, Houston
Dec. 15, 2006
NASA Selects Undergraduate Teams to Fly on 'Weightless Wonder'
HOUSTON -Thirty-four undergraduate student teams have been selected to fly and conduct experiments aboard NASA's "Weightless Wonder" reduced gravity aircraft next spring. After arrival at Ellington Field and NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, the teams will spend several days preparing themselves and their experiments for flight by participating in technical reviews and physical training.
This unique learning experience is part of NASA's Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program. The program has given undergraduate teams the chance to research, design, fabricate, fly and evaluate reduced gravity experiments annually since 1995.
The "Weightless Wonder" is a modified McDonnell Douglas DC-9 that conducts parabolic flights. The plane does a steep climb followed by an equally steep descent, producing about 18 to 25 seconds of weightlessness. Each team will have about 32 parabolas to run experiments, with gravitational forces ranging from zero gravity to Martian-like levels at one-third Earth's gravity.
Four of the teams have been selected for the program's first lunar gravity flights. These experiments relate to areas of interest such as propulsion, areas that NASA is investigating as it prepares for future lunar missions. Lunar gravity is one-sixth that of Earth.
"These explorers of tomorrow will be given a chance to experiment under conditions that can't be replicated in any laboratory here on Earth," said Donn Sickorez, the program's university affairs officer at Johnson. "Not only will they get to briefly experience reduced gravity, but they'll also learn what's needed to take humans back to the moon, and beyond."
Each proposal was evaluated for technical merit, safety and an outreach plan. Past proposals have included topics such as aviation, biology, medicine and communications.
Selected teams may also invite a full-time, accredited journalist to participate with them to document their experiences. For questions regarding team journalists, contact Debbie Nguyen, with Johnson's Public Affairs Office, at 281-483-5111.
With this project, NASA continues the agency's tradition of investing in the nation's education programs. This commitment is directly tied to the agency's education goal of strengthening NASA and the nation's future workforce.
To view the selected teams, their scheduled flight weeks, and get more information about the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program, visit: http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov
For information about NASA and agency programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov
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