Monday, November 30, 2009


As we were all kids at one point, it’s probable that every one of us has had the desire to become an astronaut; to ride the space shuttle, work on the International Space Station, and just simply to go into space. But what was it about space that stole our imaginations? It could have been interest in advance technology, visiting the Moon, making scientific contributions, or wearing those cool space-suits. However, we know it wasn’t any of those things. We just wanted to be weightless!

Weightlessness is a feeling experienced during free fall, normally under a galactic body’s gravitational force or in deep space. Also referred to as a “zero gravity”, this sensation of loosing, if not all, of your weight instantaneously is a simple physics problem. Weightlessness can occur when all forces acting upon a mass are equal or no forces are at work.

One might ask, “Then how come astronauts orbiting the Earth weigh nothing?” Well, the answer is not because our planet’s gravitational force is decreased by increased distance from its core, but because both the orbiting vessel and the astronauts inside have no difference in acceleration. It is the same law considered when launching satellites; if adjusted correctly, a satellites orbiting speed is so fast that it keeps circling the earth creating a centrifugal force equal to that exerted by Earth’s gravitational field.

The only way to experience weightlessness for yourself, short of becoming a fully trained astronaut, is to ride a specifically designed aircraft referred to as the “Vomit Comet”. These types of aircraft fly an elliptical path relative to the center of the Earth, or as it is better described, parabolic.

To begin each arc, the aircraft climbs at an angle of 45⁰, then reduces thrust while aligning to a zero angle of attack, and descends at a 30⁰ angle. Weightlessness is felt during the entire peak of the hump, but when you reach the valley, extra g-forces are exerted on the body doubling your weight. During these maneuvers, you will feel zero gravity almost a third of the time.

If you’ve read everything before this point, you can surmise that weighing nothing is going to cost you a pretty penny. The only company based inside the United States approved by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is Zero Gravity Corporation which offers flights to the general public where passengers can experience the force of both the Moon’s and Mar’s gravity as well as complete weightlessness. Each mission will consist of 12-15 parabolas, with each arc taking about 65 seconds. Yet for all that merriment, you’re still going to need to come up with about $5,000 to book a ride for yourself.

People have done a lot of crazy things in weightless environments, but this video below takes the cake.

No comments:

Post a Comment