If you ever wished for weightlessness like astronauts, here is an easy way to feel it… Get into a Zero Gravity Plane. Zero Gravity Planes performs parabolic arcs to create a weightless environment allowing you to float, flip and soar as if you were in space. Parabolic flight or zero gravity flight is an aerobatic maneuver performed by an airplane that enables brief (15-25 sec) periods of near-zero-gravity. Astronauts feel weightless because their space shuttle is in a state of continuous free fall to the earth. If an astronaut on the space station drops a pen, it doesn’t look like it’s falling. That’s because they’re all falling together: the pen, the astronaut and the station. But they’re not falling towards Earth, they’re falling around it. Because they’re all falling at the same rate, objects inside of the station appear to float in a state we call “zero gravity” (0g), or more accurately microgravity (1×10-6g). Objects in a state of free fall are said to be weightless. The object’s mass is the same, but it would mark “0” on a scale. Eventhough your mass stays the same, weight varies depending on whether you are on Earth, the moon or in orbit. Gravitational force is a measurement of the acceleration due to gravity that causes weight. Zero gravity is a condition of weightlessness referring to the absence of a gravitational force (g-force or Gs).
Because of air resistance, objects in Earth’s atmosphere only travel in arcs that approximate a true parabola. In case of a true parabolic arc in air, the only accelerative force is gravity pulling in a vertical direction which means horizontal velocity remains constant. So in order for passengers in the plane to experience a free fall safely, the aeroplane must climb at a steep angle, level off, and then dive, creating a parabolic arc, also called a Keplerian Trajectory or free-fall path. I.e. In parabolic flight, any plane flies in a parabolic arc involving three stages, an horizontal phase in which the gravitational force is the same as on Earth, 1g. A second phase which goes from 0º to 45º where the passengers weight increase up to 1.8g. Finally, for angles greater than 45º together with the adequate speed, the 0g effect is achieved.
During an entry phase, flight flies horizontally at an altitude of 24,000 feet, then the nose of the plane is lifted upward to an angle of about 45 degrees(nose high) until the plane reaches around 32,000 feet where the engines are pulled back to idle. This moment is called initiation with aircraft entering parabolic phase. As the plane goes over the top of the arc, the centrifugal force exerted on the plane and everything in it cancels out the gravitational force pulling downwards, making you feel as if you are weightless. At this point everything in the plane, experience a sense of weightlessness for the next 20-30 seconds. After these few seconds, at approximately 30 degrees (nose low) a gentle pull-out is started which allows the passengers to stabilize on the aircraft floor, thus exiting from parabola and regaining the initial level of flight.. The maneuver is then repeated almost to 15 times. Passengers experience a pull of nearly twice that of gravity (1.8 Gs) during the downward trajectory, at the bottom of the path, as well as the upward climb of the flight, which takes around 65 seconds to complete.
The first zero gravity flights were proposed in 1949 by the German aerospace engineer Fritz Haber and the German physicist Heinz Haber . Both had been brought to the US after World War II as part of Operation Paperclip. They proposed parabolic flights as a way of simulating weightlessness. Parabolic flights are also used to examine the effects of weightlessness on a living organism. While humans are by far the most common passengers, non-human animals have occasionally been involved in experiments, including a notable experiment on how weightlessness affected a domestic cat‘s righting reflex and a pigeon’s attempts to navigate in a weightless state.
Zero gravity flights are the only way to test microgravity with humans without going through lengthy astronaut-training and flights to the International Space Station. Parabolic flights are extremely safe and have been flown for the past 50 years by NASA, The Russian Space Program and European Space Agency. For this reason, parabolic flights are often used to validate space instruments and train astronauts before spaceflight. Zero gravity aircraft are also used for expensive leisure pursuits and weightlessness experiments by NASA and also used in the entertainment industry.
Along with the experience of floating, passengers will also experience nausea due to motion sickness during the journey, that’s why such flights got nickname of “vomit comet”. The 1.8g assents has a strong effect on the fluids in your ears which affect your sense of balance, and that’s what makes you nauseous. Zero Gravity Research Facility in Brook Park, Ohio,US is the country’s main base for microgravity research and the world’s largest facility of its kind. The centre is used to develop and test equipment designed for flights on board the Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS). In late 2004, Zero Gravity Corporation(ZERO-G) the became the first company in the United States to offer zero-g flights to the general public.
If you want to experience a zero-gravity flight, you can book a trip on G-FORCE-ONE, a modified Boeing 727-200, through the ZERO-G Web site or at your local Sharper Image store for ($4,950 – £3,950) per person. It’s possible to book yourself on to a zero gravity flight from the Orlando Sanford International Airport and Fort Lauderdale International Airport in Florida, as well as from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and the Oakland International Airport in Oakland, California. Flights are also offered in New York and Los Angeles, as well as in Austin and Houston in Texas. The package includes your flight, unique merchandise and a post-flight celebration (or, depending on your point of view, a wake for your temporary dramatic weight loss). Passengers must be at least 15 years old if unaccompanied, or 12 if flying with a parent or guardian.
The G-Force One aircraft can also offer the experience of lunar gravity (the gravitational force of the Moon where you’ll weigh around a sixth of your weight on Earth) or Martian gravity (the level of gravity on Mars where your weight is around a third of that on Earth) by flying a larger arc at the top of the parabolic path This is when you can jump around the aircraft like you are walking on the moon/Mars. Is’t it awesome.??
I think a zero-gravity flight is the first step towards space travel, so be weightless and get ready for your sub-orbital flight…