Experiencing zero-g

July 19, 2004

Paris, 16 Jul 2004

Team 1097 - Aberdeen University Despite having our reservations about flying on the 13th, we were about to let our superstitions get the better of us. After overcoming the initial disappointment of having to fly vibration-less (the main aspect of our experiment), this was soon forgotten about once we had our first weightless experience.

Being one of the few native English-speaking teams, even we struggle to find the words to describe the event. For some of us being lost for words is a novelty in itself. With great excitement and bated breath we eagerly awaited the full 30 parabola testing flight today.

So with the revised protocol ready to fly, Steve and Julie bid goodbye to Mark and Chris. We began data collection from the first parabola (#0) but were unsure about the ease of transition from seated to standing position on hearing the 'Injection' cue. Steve kindly offered to be the first 'guinea pig'. We were able to obtain clear EMG recordings from the 3 muscles under investigation during the static squat, dynamic squat on one leg and dynamic squat on one leg. No amount of identical testing of our protocol on Earth could have prepared us for the actual sensations accompanying Zero-G.

On completion of Julie's testing, we were able to afford some free-floating time to encounter first-hand the bizarre environment in which astronauts have become accustomed. The perturbations in the various homeostatic feedback mechanisms mixed with the surge of adrenaline made it a truly unforgettable experience!

Thanks to ESA, Novespace, the other teams and all involved to allow us this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Team 1088 - Ecole Polytechnique de Paris

After the first flight, we were really excited about the thought of 30 parabolas and we were wondering how our experiment would behave.

We got up really early to place our tubes full of hair gel in the racks. The night had been quite short because one of our team members had sprained his ankle late in the evening…Therefore, it was with small eyes but high spirits that we entered the plane. After checking for the last time that everything was well fixed to the floor, that our recorder would protect the images filmed, we sat in our seats and waited for the parabolas to begin.

The first parabola of the flight was so exciting and made us move in such a way that we couldn't observe anything for ourselves. Afterwards, we began to get used to dealing with microgravity and could be more efficient in checking our experiment. The first injection of air disappointed us: we expected the bubble to be fingering, and it was just perfectly round, as any normal liquid would behave in microgravity. We didn't stop the experiment and kept watching, looking for fingering. It was really interesting to observe that the angle of the needle had no impact on the shape of the bubble. What is more, we did some injections in 2 G and the special shape of the border of the bubble we have for an injection on Earth was there again, but accentuated!

The good thing about our organization was that we had to manipulate only during the one G phase: therefore, we could have some fun free floating in the specialized area!! That was truly an extraordinary experience!! Unfortunately, one of us began to feel sick after 7 parabolas and was out of the experiment area for the last five ones. But that was not a major issue since the orange Novespace guys and doctor were extremely competent, and were really nice and helpful.

When the flight was over, we were anxious about a personal debriefing because we didn't observe what would have proved our theory right. The whole team spent the entire afternoon looking at the movies we recorded and thinking about the changes we wanted to do for the next flight. It turned out that we decided to vary the kind of gel in the tubes to answer two hypotheses: firstly, the gel we used may have been changed while we centrifuged it to take away the small bubbles, secondly, the gel used may have been too homogeneous for the bubble to branch.

During the evening, we went to the supermarket to buy new gels and prepared new tubes for the next flight: we are now really anxious to know what will happen on Thursday!!

Team 1007 - International Space University (ISU)- Universidad de Barcelona

The day started with a clear blue sky that promised a flight beyond our initial expectations. Our excitement was growing by the moment once we were in the blue suits that identified us as Zero-G experimenters.

After a quick take off, the series of parabolas started, and with them, the weightlessness experience. It is difficult to describe the sensation of freedom one feels the first time one is not subjected to the tyranny of gravity. Every movement is extremely easy to perform and, as everything floats around you, one feels that time has been slowed down just until being completely stopped.

But we were not only to experience the fun of microgravity: our experiment was waiting. Thus, we started performing the tests we had been carefully preparing during the past several months. As expected, the experiment went really well. We can't wait to know the results of the lab analysis of the obtained samples.

All in all, a wonderful day that will stay with us forever . The day that we had the chance to contribute to the advancement of mankind in space while having so much fun! Simply incredible.

Team 1045 - Universität Zürich

We have been waiting for this moment for more than six months! And today the moment has finally arrived!

This morning we woke up before the alarm rang. We could feel our nervousness.

Yesterday we did five parabolas, but today it will be 31….! Our brains were filled with millions of questions: will my body make it? Am I am going to be sick? Will our experiment work? More and more questions raised…

This morning the breakfast did not taste very good… Our stomachs were full of excitement, happiness and anxiousness. It is time to lift off: now we have to really experience it!

Entering the plane we could hear our hearts beat. A few minutes later we were already flying, ready to begin the experiment. The Parabola "zero" we just needed to get used to it. The seats were thoughtfully chosen, we waited to start.

Finally Parabola "1"started. The execution of our experiment was really easy, we did not experience any problems. The experience was very satisfying. We felt great! We felt like fish in water!

During the end of the flight we simply enjoyed each parabola. It is simply impossible to describe the feeling of 0g!!

It is like a dream – only better. You don't control your own body any more, in the original meaning of the word.

You feel like: 'I am here'- but the body seems far away – like it has disappeared! You can still perceive everything around you, but now in 0g; it is a different perspective!!

You are conscious, that on top is on top and that down is down, you can see it, but to understand it you simply cannot understand it any more. It is just a feeling, which you, back on Earth aren't able to understand. It is a feeling that once experienced you will never forget!!!

European Space Agency
http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/index.ht ml
Item source: http://www.esa.int/esaED/SEM82OU4QWD_hig hereducation_0.html

Please login or register to read this article.

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments