Saturday, October 20, 2007

Way Too Short

Flight Path we took over North Dakota

My team!

I just got back a little while ago from the microgravity flight. What an amazing experience! It was unbelievable but WAY too short. It felt like we had barely gotten into the air when it was over. When we got to the hotel this morning, we had a light breakfast (2 small muffins and a banana) then we got into our flight suits. They are really cool with a Weightless Flight of Discovery Patch, and the Zero G logo as well as a name tag. The tag was upside down. From what I was told this is a Navy tradition that Navy pilots do not get to turn their wings upside down until after they have landed successfully on an aircraft carrier. After the flight, the commander met us at the bottom of the steps and turned our name tag and we got a picture taken. After getting cameras stowed away, experiments put away, and got briefed we watched a short movie about all the stuff we would be doing. It was really heavy on safety. I probably heard a hundred times that safety was the number one concern. I was a member of the gold team. We got gold bracelets (like the live strong ones) and gold socks. We put those into a pocket for later. We then made a final pit stop (no bathrooms on the plane) and headed out to the bus. Before we got on, we got wanded with metal detectors and the bus took us straight up to the airplane. Once we got off, we took a bunch of pictures, both of the whole group and just the gold team. It was really cool because almost all of the gold team knew each other from summer classes through the Space Foundation.

Once we got onto the plane, we set in regular seats for takeoff. I was really glad because it was a very turbulent takeoff. Our airspace was over North Dakota. Once we got past the turbulence we got out of our seats and took a few more pictures, then all of a sudden they said we had ten minutes, just enough for a safety meeting, getting out the cameras and planning what we were going to do during the Martian and lunar parabolas. We decided just to enjoy those and we did. We then got the call to lay down and we started pulling Gs. My head was toward the cockpit and my feet toward the tail. Laying down, it wasn’t too bad and you could not tell at all that we were going up at a 50 degree angle. That was one of the really odd things. During take off every time we hit turbulence we could tell the plane was moving and shaking. It was actually pretty disorienting. Then once we got to our area (we were at the front of the plane) I never could tell if we were going up or down. When we first got to Martian gravity, it was awesome. I was doing one handed pushups and just kind of bouncing all over the place. And then we got the call, “feet down coming out” and we scurried back to laying down. Then we pulled more Gs and got the call of Lunar 1 coming up. Again, we got into push up position and you could push yourself up so high that you could almost stand up. Really an odd feeling and very hard to describe. We also did some frog kind of leaps. We couldn’t really jump because we would have smashed our heads but we could king of frog/superman jump toward the camera, loads of fun. Then we had the second Lunar parabola and we all tried to pile on to Kim’s back and let her do pushups, that wasn’t very successful because it becomes so hard to control your body even in 1/8 gravity.

Next, we had a few minutes to prepare for our first zero gravity parabolas. We decided to just enjoy those and man did we. It is really an odd sensation to just float up off of the ground. You kind of have to help yourself get up with a little push. When I say little, I mean with a finger, not all of your fingers but a finger. I made the mistake later of pushing up very slightly with my feet. I went crashing into the ceiling.

Our next parabola we decided to play catch. We had brought some tennis balls for an experiment but the ball we used was cooler. Me. I folded up into a little ball and Bobby and Brian pushed me around the cabin. Then for the next three loops we played catch literally with each other.

Video and picture note. I did not get very many pictures, or much video. It was so hard to steady the camera that it just didn’t work. In 4-6 weeks I will be getting a video from Zero G with all the footage and the pictures should be online by tomorrow.

Next, we got out our experiments. I got out the higher mass ball and the lower mass ball. We did that for one loop and let me tell you, an object in motion really does stay in motion. When we hit the first balls together, they did something (Don’t want to give it away yet) but then Bryan got the tennis ball and completely missed the other ball and it sailed off and I still don’t know where it went.

Kim did a flying pig experiment that didn’t work very well because of technical difficulties and Bobby had a Jacobs’s ladder toy that did some crazy things. After those parabolas, we were down to four and did a few group things like linking arms and flying like superman. We also tried to crawl around the cabin. I really stunk at that. I made it about half way up one wall and then just kind of floated off. Spiderman has nothing to worry about.

Probably the coolest part was the second to last parabola. I didn’t do anything than just kind of push myself around but at one point I ended up spinning upside down and got totally disoriented. I had absolutely no idea which way was up. I thought I was grabbing onto the ceiling and it was the floor, then I thought I had the wall and it was the ceiling. I absolutely know why they say that there is no up or down in space.

Overall it was a phenomenal experience that I would do again in a minute but it was too short. It was one of those things that was amazing but if I had it to do over again, I would do some things differently. I can’t wait to see the video and still pictures. Sorry that mine aren’t very good but when you are floating around and have absolutely no control over which way your body is going, it is tough to focus on taking a picture.

These were the only two pictures I took while actually floating! That is not a sweat stain on Kim, someone had water that got loose.

Group photo, I will post a better picture later when I get them. I'm the tall guy in the middle, right under the o in zero.

1 comment:

Eric Langhorst said...

Marty - Wow! Just read your comments as I'm sitting in my basement in Liberty watching some college football late on a Saturday night. It sounds like you had a blast and your experiments will help your students. Glad that you had a great time and thanks for sharing it with the world on your blog!

Eric Langhorst