School Teachers to Ride the "Vomit Comet"
Flying on NASA's KC-135 aircraft, affectionately known to astronauts as the "vomit comet," now nicknamed the "weightless wonder," soon will give teachers and students a chance to study the effects of weightlessness.
This spring, teachers from Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa will fly on the KC-135. They'll take along the microgravity experiments their classes developed with the assistance of NASA scientist-mentors.
A typical mission lasts about two to three hours. During each steep climb and dive the passengers will experience 20 to 25 seconds of reduced gravity.
This incredible opportunity was made possible through the NASA Explorer Schools program (NES), which began in 2003. The program invites 50 middle schools to partner with NASA for three years. During that time, NES teams acquire new teaching and technology tools using NASA's experts and other resources.
"One of the goals of the NES program is to provide teachers and their students with unique opportunities that are inquiry-based, as only NASA can," said Peggy Steffen, NASA Explorer Schools program manager. "Developing an experiment to fly on the reduced gravity aircraft, with the assistance of a NASA scientist-mentor, will provide the students an opportunity to investigate a real-world application of physical science."
The KC-135 can provide short periods of lunar (1/6) and martian (1/3) gravity. The "weightless wonder" was also used to support the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Space Shuttle, and Space Station programs.
The KC-135 was chosen by NASA as the perfect aircraft for the Agency's Reduced Gravity Program, to better understand the role of gravity on humans and hardware in space. The aircraft was nicknamed the vomit comet because of the stomach-turning effects it has on its passengers, during the several seconds of weightlessness as it alternates steep climbs and dives.
The KC-135 flying science laboratory is still in use by astronauts to simulate weightlessness for space flights and by researchers for experimentation.
The NASA Explorer Schools selected to fly in 2004 are: Pender Public Schools in Pender, Neb., Crossroads Elementary School
in Saint Paul, Minn., and Sioux Central Middle School in Sioux Rapids, Iowa. The flights will take place April 15-21 from Houston's Ellington Field, near NASA's Johnson Space Center.
This partnership provides a wonderful opportunity for students to participate in real-life experiences with NASA science and technology, and apply this knowledge to every-day issues and problems.
For further information, visit:
For more information about the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities program, visit:
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center and Johnson Space Center