Zero Gravity Flights at Johnson Space Center

Floating in zero gravity is just one of the perks of being an engineer :) Our team at ADA Technologies got a chance to fly on 4 zero gravity flights out of Ellington Field in Houston back in early March.  We're currently under a subcontract for NASA to develop a fine water mist fire extinguisher for the International Space Station and had to make sure the design would function correctly without gravity.  Our experiment consistent of discharging the extinguisher into an enclosed box and then measuring the size of the droplets with a laser as they were suspended in mid air.

Each flight on the modified Boeing 727 nicknamed the "Vomit Comet" lasts for about an hour and a half and consists of 40 parabolas where the plane cycles through dive-bombing at 45° towards earth from 34,000 ft down to 24,000 ft in about 30 seconds before pulling up and then ascending back to 34,000 ft.  Kind of like the coolest roller coaster you could ever imagine. They give you a shot about 30 mins before each flight with some serious anti-nausea meds but still make you take bags with you in each pocket of you flight suit.  Luckily, I did not get sick on my two days of flights but the meds give you a weird dry mouth feeling and totally drain your energy after the adrenaline of flying is over. What people sometimes don't realize is that not only do you experience 0G at the top of the curve and all the way down, but on the way back up your body experiences almost 2G and it feels like you weigh 300 lbs.  It makes it pretty tough to even stand up (push-ups were near impossible) when the plane is ascending.

Below are a bunch of pictures from our experience along with a behind the scenes tour at Johnson Space Center where we got to visit both the ISS and the old mission control rooms, sit in the cockpit of the shuttle training module and tour the entire mock space station.  The whole trip was definitely a career highlight.
Poster on the wall of the Briefing Room
Flight profile painted on one of the older ZeroG planes Photo Credit: Thierry Carriere
The Zero G plane, parked just down the runway was the huge 747 Shuttle carrier that flew around the country last year.
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Me in front of our test enclosure Photo Credit: Mike Tomlinson
<br />PHOTO DATE: 2-26-13<br />LOCATION: Ellington Field<br />SUBJECT: NASA Reduced Gravity Office Research Flights for Flight Opportunities. Flight #1.<br />PHOTOGRAPHER: Lauren Harnett
Andrew and Sterling in flight Photo Credit: Mike Tomlinson
PHOTO DATE: 02-28-13<br />LOCATION:  Ellington Field - Zero-G Corp 727<br />SUBJECT:  Reduced Gravity Office's research flight week. Flight 3<br />PHOTOGRAPHER: BILL STAFFORD
A look out one of the windows at the back of the plane Photo Credit: NASA
PHOTO DATE: 02-28-13<br />LOCATION:  Ellington Field - Zero-G Corp 727<br />SUBJECT:  Reduced Gravity Office's research flight week. Flight 3<br />PHOTOGRAPHER: BILL STAFFORD
Our team at work on the test enclosure Photo Credit:NASA

Me just hanging out Photo Credit: Sterling Tarver

Video Credit: Sterling Tarver
Video Credit: Andrew Brewer
Video Credit: Sterling Tarver
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Mike showing off the toe straps to stay put Photo Credit: Mike Tomlinson
Fixing some stuff in the test enclosure Photo Credit: Mike Tomlinson
Mike and I working with some software for the laser Photo Credit: Sterling Tarver
A view inside the enclosure during discharge. The little red foam extinguisher was tied to a string and we could tell when were in zero g when it started floating.

The team floating in the middle of a test 
Our seven member team minus Thierry Photo Credit: Sterling Tarver
My visitor badge and an old CO2 extinguisher aboard the ISS replica

View from outside the ISS replica
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Sleeping in an astronaut's bed Photo Credit: Mike Tomlinson
IMG_20130227_154337IMG_20130227_154350(Left) the American side of the ISS, (Right) the Russian side of the ISS

(Left) Robonaut on wheels, (Right) a mars rover

ISS Mission Control, eerily similar to GoldenEye Mission Control
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Space Suits Photo Credit: Mike Tomlinson
Vacuum tube messaging system in the old mission control room, no email back in the day.  Also loved the rotary dial to input numbers in the upper left of the picture.
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The team hanging out in the old mission control room Photo Credit: Mike Tomlinson

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