Friday, July 22, 2011
Applying for NASA's Reduced Gravity Program (Zero G)
Ever since my experience with NASA's Teaching From Space Reduced Gravity Program, I have had a lot of people ask me about how to apply and what the program consists of. I'm going to start off with a caution that it is one of the hardest applications and executions of a project that I have ever done. It should not be looked at as a "fun time" even though it is during the flight. This is a lot of hard work and real scientific research in a very unique and special environment, and that should not be taken lightly. Last year the applications opened up in February and were due mid March. Here is last years schedule (http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov/tfs/). It is a tight schedule and chaotic. The more complicated the experiment the more stressful it gets to make deadlines and report that the experiment is safe. We had a simple bubble experiment and it was pretty stressful as the team leader. It is a lot of emails, contacts, and typing so make sure you have the time, or a great and supportive team if you want to take this on. My personal advice, and we suggested this to the Teaching from Space program, is to start your ideas and experiments in the fall to make it a year long project. If everything goes well in the fall and you have great data go ahead and apply, and it might even make the application process easier. If your school is accepted then great! However, if not, then you probably worked on a great experiment anyway that you could probably share with parents and the community. There are also other ways to get your experiment in zero gravity. For example, this project - Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. The link for this zero gravity program on the ISS is down at the bottom of the page. When you are filling out the application, first make sure you have a fully committed team. We had to switch some alternates and it is a hassle. Commitment and communication is key through thick and think with this project. When you are writing the application make sure you have a clear vision for your experiment from start to finish. This means be VERY detailed for all the data collection in normal gravity during the school year, while you are on the plane, and your outreach when you get back. They really love it when teachers bring in outside resources such as parents, scientists, and researchers in the local community. They also want to see a lot of outreach when the project is finished within the school and the community. The main goal is to answer each of their questions with great detail so that they can get a clear vision of what your team wants to study by just reading the application. If you need more information send me a message and I will help you out as best as I can. It is an amazing program and all of the hard work is totally worth it to experience weightlessness!