Saturday, April 4, 2009
Aerotech for donation of the DC motor.
Idaho Air National Guard for the flight physicals.
Boise State University's Office of Sponsored Programs: Mark Rudin for the start-up funds and Lisa Williams for facilitating funding.
Idaho Space Grant Consortium for the travel funds.
The ground crew:
Matt McCrink for all his hard work on the mechanical arm and box as well as the support at Ellington Field. We couldn't have built this in time without him.
Bob Davidson for his mad driving skills and making sure we were on time to Ellington Field and JSC. Also for his comic relief when things got tense.
Jeff Perkins for engineering the foam that covered the sharp edges of the box and helped us pass the TRR.
Kyle Knori for being our alternate flyer and for his help with the emergency stop button. I'm glad he got to fly with the Nebraska team.
Travis Dean for helping with one of the most critical parts of the experiment, the SLA wheels.
Jake Foresberg for helping out in Boise with the logo design and the emergency stop button.
Jason Griswold, who couldn't make it due to last minute circumstance. He was missed.
The Reduced Gravity Office at Ellington Field:
Sara Malloy for her support during the past two and a half months as we were learning the ins and outs of the Microgravity Program.
Doug Goforth for managing the program with intensity and humor and reminding us to make a memory.
Dominic Del Rosso for being an inspiration on the ground and in the air and for sharing so much of his time with a bunch of rookies.
The staff of Johnson Space Center:
And a very special thanks to Barbara Morgan who has been with us from the introduction of Microgravity at Boise State to actually flying with us on G-FORCE ONE. Barbara has been an inspiration to us all and every student who she talked to this week.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
The first test went smoothly. We realized that we would be able to get two trials in per parabola. I decided that I didn’t need to be sitting to operate the computer interface. With my hands on the box for support, I proceeded to operate the experiment suspended in a handstand. Mallory was amazingly fast. Her quick maneuvers in the glove box allowed us to get two trials done per parabola. We were on track to finish early. Our enemy decided to strike again, however. The turbulence over the Gulf became too great for us to get in all of our scheduled parabolas. We were told we only had a few lunar left. Luckily for the team, we had doubled our parabolas and were on track to finish the test. We ended up collecting all of the data in time for a successful mission. We were left with one lunar, one Martian, and one zero-G that we could use for “secondary research.”
The last lunar was spent jumping around and running up the walls. I managed to pull myself up and walk on the ceiling of the plane. Martian gravity followed. I managed to pull off a reduced gravity version of Conan O’Brien’s String Dance. Hopefully it was captured on camera. Lastly, we had three zero-G parabolas. These were incredible. The sensation is difficult to put into words. "Pure Awesome" is close. The best way I can describe it is that it is like being suspended under water, but under normal pressure and no control. I had anticipated being able to swim around and float about, but I exhibited no such control in this environment. It is a struggle to even keep from flailing about. I always thought that floating would be somewhat like a rollercoaster. I was very wrong. There is no wind and you don’t actually realize that the plane is at a downward incline. It seems as if the gravity was just sucked out of the room and you are left floating. The only way to really express this sensation is to share the pictures and videos. I managed to lay my body parallel to the floor, but suspended in mid air. Meanwhile, Mallory showed off some yoga positions while Jim attempted to pull her around the cabin. Mallory and I both got the flip treatment and were wildly spun about the cabin. The feeling was surreal. I can't wait to share the pictures and videos.
(I have a much longer and detailed version of this post if anyone wants to read it).
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Unfortunately, the day-two flight crew had to come back in before executing any parabolas. The turbulence over the gulf was too intense, and after all, NASA's motto is "The safe way is the right way."
The Boeing 727 known as G-FORCE ONE noses over for its first lunar parabola of the morning. The majority of its crew being first-time fliers: a unanimous wave of excitement and awe sweeps over the interior, as they miraculously lift off the floor for the first time.
During our training in the days before the flight, we'd been told to just take the first few parabolas to get used to the sensation of reduced gravity as well as the hypergravity experienced while the plane recovered in altitude for the next drop. Despite all the verbal and mental preparations I had been run through, it was still something quite different than what I was expecting.
There are no windows in our section of the aircraft to see out of, but the pictures of the plane during its ascent and descent show a pretty impressive angle. And although the plane certainly doesn't fly like any other commercial plane, it felt surprisingly natural after the first few nose-overs.
Not so much a sensation of falling or panic, as one might expect from a plane about to free-fall, but credit goes to the skill of the pilots for keeping the ride so smooth that you can't really tell anything other than feeling alternatively lighter and heavier during the parabolas.
I was busy most of the time, operating our experiment, but even with that distraction, the experience was one that I will hope to carry with me the rest of my life. Especially the first few parabolas getting used to lunar gravity, and the zero-G parabolas at the end, were awesome. If I had the chance to do it again, I would take it in an instant.
Normal things act very differently in reduced gravity, and even more perplexingly in zero-G. I noticed that at least the look of things floating in zero-G, or people hopping around in the lunar parabolas, seemed exactly as I had seen on video from NASA footage from the actual locations. The lunar gravity seemed more fun to me, partly because I could still do normal things, but just felt like a superhero, and the zero gravity was so wildly different, it was hard to control your movements.
And now, 24 hours after our flight, the second day's fliers are preparing to take off, taking the experiment through its second run, as well as taking in the Zero-G experience. :)