Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
NASA Selects Explorer Schools to Experiment on 'Weightless Wonder'
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA has selected Conyers Middle School in Conyers, Ga., and Immokalee Middle School in Naples, Fla., to fly their experiments aboard the agency's reduced-gravity aircraft, the "Weightless Wonder," a modified McDonnell Douglas DC-9.
The schools were two of 20 NASA Explorer School teams selected for this unique experience, which also will give teachers a feel of space as the aircraft carefully executes a series of parabolic maneuvers. To produce each parabola, the C-9 will make a steep climb followed by an equally steep dive, creating about 25 seconds of weightlessness.
The teachers and students have already finished designing and building their proposed projects for flight. Conyers participants will travel to NASA's aircraft facility at Ellington Field near the Johnson Space Center in Houston on Sunday, Feb. 4, to prepare for their flight. Immokalee teachers will arrive at Ellington on Feb. 11. Following the flight, the teachers will be able to share their experiences and immediate findings with their students at home via video conferencing technology through NASA's Digital Learning Network.
The schools were selected as Kennedy Space Center's NASA Explorer Schools between 2004 and 2006, giving them an opportunity to propose a reduced-gravity experiment. The program, which now has 175 teams nationwide, allows schools and their communities to work with NASA in a three-year partnership to develop the nation's future science, technology, engineering and mathematics work force.
Conyers' experiment will test the fluid dynamics of "Ooleck," which is a suspension of corn starch in water. The focus on observing a non-Newtonian fluid's reaction in reduced gravity is important to the future of space travel, as it has possibilities for use in micro-meteoroid protection for space modules and spacesuits.
Immokalee's experiment aims to characterize the movement and lifting capability of a hovercraft in a zero-G environment. The school will measure movement using motion sensors and accelerometers.
Three months after the flight, the teams will issue final reports that analyze the experiments' effectiveness, scientific findings and what conclusions were drawn from those results.
With this program, NASA continues the agency's tradition of investing in the nation's education programs. It is directly tied to the agency's major education goal of attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines. To compete effectively for the minds, imaginations and career ambitions of America's young people, NASA is focused on engaging and retaining students in STEM education programs to encourage their pursuit of educational disciplines critical to NASA's future engineering, scientific and technical missions.
For more information on NASA Explorer Schools on the Internet, go to: http://explorerschools.nasa.gov/portal/site/nes/
For more information on other NASA reduced-gravity programs, call Debbie Nguyen of NASA Johnson Space Center at 281-483-5111 or visit: http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov
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