Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Later on July 27

The Bearable Lightness of Being

By Patti Wieser

There’s nothing that quite describes the experience of weightlessness. Nothing.
                                                     Patti Wieser pre-flight   Photo by Susan Franko
I flew today on NASA’s zero-gravity flight with teachers who had taken their reduced-gravity experiments aboard through a NASA-PPPL partnership.

When you reach zero-G, your body floats.


I felt giddy. A little high. Exhilarated.

Between weightlessness, we dropped to a padded floor. I chose to be flat. My feet felt like I was wearing cement boots when I tried to lift them.

And then we began to lift. Weightlessness. Wow.

The Zero-G aircraft does parabolic arcs to produce short periods of weightlessness, according to NASA. These periods are several seconds each. There were 32 parabolas. We were in a zero-G environment 30 times, once in a Martian gravity (one-third) environment and once in lunar (one-sixth).

What an experience. And how lucky am I to be able to go along for the ride?

One group of PPPL teacher-researchers logged data using a sharpie marker and laminated paper tied to the clear box that enclosed their experiment. Then they dropped to the floor when the gravitational environment changed. They were clumsy when they used glove boxes to adjust experimental parts. They laughed as their hair swirled around them. Some did somersaults. One proposed to his girlfriend in a video shot in zero-G. Who could resist that?

And who could ever say science is boring?

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