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Emily Sturgill
Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.

Steve Knighton
Piedmont Elementary School, Charleston, West Va.

RELEASE : 07-051
NASA Selects West Virginia School to Fly Aboard 'Weightless Wonder'

HAMPTON, Va. - NASA has selected Piedmont Elementary School in Charleston, West Va., to fly a student-designed experiment aboard the agency's reduced gravity aircraft, the "Weightless Wonder."

In February 2008, Piedmont Elementary will join 13 other NASA Explorer School (NES) teams selected for this unique learning experience to test science and math concepts in a weightless laboratory. The modified McDonnell Douglas DC-9 jetliner will fly a series of parabolic maneuvers -- steep climbs followed by sharp descents. Each climb will produce about 30 seconds of hyper gravity, ranging from 1.8 to 2 g's. When the C-9 "noses over," each free fall will produce 18 to 25 seconds of weightlessness. The teams will fly about 32 parabolas.

The school's immediate mission is to finalize the concept of their experiment and work with a NASA mentor to get their experiment flight-ready. The team will need to decide which educators will execute and accompany the experiment aboard the aircraft. Those educators will travel to NASA's aircraft facility at Ellington Field and the Johnson Space Center in Houston on Feb. 6, 2008, to prepare for their flight the following week.

"The goal of the NASA Explorer School Program is to equip the next generation of explorers. These flights are an illustration of how NASA can connect space, math and science to classrooms on Earth," said Rob Lasalvia, NES Program Manager.

Piedmont Elementary was selected as a NASA Explorer School in 2007, giving the school an opportunity to propose a reduced gravity experiment. The program enables 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. There are now 200 teams, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

With this program, NASA continues the agency's tradition of investing in the nation's education programs to attract and retain 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:

For more information on other NASA Reduced Gravity Programs, visit the Web at:


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