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April 1, 1997

Beth Schmid April 1, 1997
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1760)

Edward Campion
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
(Phone: 281/483-5111)

Release: N97-23


Twenty-Four Teams of College Students Prepare Experiments for NASA's Reduced Gravity Aircraft

Twenty-four teams of undergraduate college students from around the country will "float" through school aboard a NASA research aircraft during a two-week program in April called the 1997 NASA Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities, a pilot program funded by NASA and administered by the Texas Space Grant Consortium.

Each team consists of up to four undergraduate-level college students, a supervising professor, and a local professional journalist, all of whom will fly except the supervising professor. Teams will develop and fly experiments aboard a KC-135A aircraft that flies a roller-coaster-like flight profile over the Gulf of Mexico. Astronauts train for space flight and NASA scientists have conducted extensive experiments aboard the aircraft.

During each two-to-three-hour flight, the aircraft maneuvers through steep climbs and descents. At the top of each ascent, passengers inside the aircraft experience 25 to 40 seconds of weightlessness. The teams will design, build, test, and operate experiments that take advantage of the reduced-gravity environment provided by the NASA aircraft. In addition to performing the experiments, each team will develop a program for sharing its research results with teachers, students, and the general public. The program's flight phase will begin April 7 at Ellington Field, near the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.

During the first week, participants will receive pre-flight training and assemble their experiment packages. During the second week, they will fly with their experiments, adjust the equipment as needed, and conduct post-flight debriefings and reviews. Each team will fly twice, and depending on the precise trajectory, passengers and their experiments can experience about 25 seconds of zero gravity, 30 seconds of one-sixth gravity (the same as the gravity on the surface of the Moon), or 40 seconds of one-third gravity (the same as Mars).

A list of participating universities can be obtained by calling Beth Schmid at the number listed above.


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