Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Flight Day!!!

It finally arrived!!  The morning of our zero gravity flight (1st group).  I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous and anxious at the same time.  I think most of us were so very freaked out about the possibility of vomiting.  The first thing we did was go to our morning briefing session with Doug Goforth.  He was so great and calm.  He made sure to point out that even though we were there to do research, that this was still a once in a lifetime opportunity.  His parting words were for us to "make a moment" while we were weightless.  To just stop for a few seconds and take it all in.  We then had a session with our flight surgeon to review motion sickness and to get our anti-sickness pills.  Those pills were a lot of fun!  It was the weirdest feeling because my head was woozy, but my stomach felt great.  We had our last talk with the photographers and videographers and then we started making our way to the plane.  It was really cool because the rest of the teams were outside waiting for us to start our journey and wishing us well. Once on the plane we filled up the 6 rows in the back to prepare for take off with our experiments secured in front of us.  Then we made it up to about 10,000 feet and we were able to get out of our seats to set up our experiments.  It was pretty cool to be working and moving around as the plane was flying! Everything was set up and ready to go. Accelerometer was collecting data, 3 cameras were set up, and bubble gun ready to go.  I just hoped everything would go according to plan and we would get the data we needed.  We all laid on the floor of the plane as we waited for the first sensation of weightlessness on our first parabola.  It seemed like an eternity, but it did come and up we went!  Even when we held on to things with our hands, our feet would be going everywhere.  I can definitely say there were a lot of smiles during those short precious seconds of zero g.  Then we went into 2-g's, which was really tough to move around in.  Most people just laid on their backs through this portion (I think this is where most people got sick).  However, I thought it was challenging and fun and would continue to work through 2-g's. We had one more parabola to get used to the feeling of nothing.  Our third parabola we hear "research!!" and we got to work at once.
  Our biggest fear with our experiment was how the bubble gun would work.  It's performance had not always been reliable or consistent.  However, it worked beautifully.  It was the cameras that threw us for a loop.  As I mentioned earlier, the first problem was with the glare, but now my good camera kept shutting off in 2-g.  Thankfully, we had 3 flip cameras and one was just taking footage of us as a group for our own record.  We swapped that camera out with the one that wasnt working and just made the best of it.  It turns out we didnt get great data because our camera angles didn't capture the bubbles well enough to time them from start to finish. More to come on that in a later blog.
   Overall, it went by wayyy too quick.  We were only weightless about 12-18 seconds each time, which also is what popped a lot of our bubbles.  We were so busy with the research the time flew by and none of us had time to think about getting sick (yeah!).  Then at the end we had two parabolas of lunar gravity and martian gravity, which were a lot of fun!!  As we wound down we stowed everything for landing and headed back to our seats.  I had made my moment and was so grateful for the chance to do this.  We think (just from observations) that the bubbles did last longer, but heading into 2-g would force them to the bottom of the glove box and they would pop.  We will just have to look at our video data to make a better judgement.  The cool thing was that the gun would make a lot more bubbles in zero-g and they would clump together!  Many times as the bubbles would leave the gun they would join together to make huge masses of bubbles.  We definitely did not expect that and we are looking forward to figuring out why that happened.
  Once we landed our amazing teams were there to greet us and get all the juicy details.  Our work just started as we knew where to make improvements, and get the rest of our team ready for their day on Friday.  We had to figure out new camera angles and where to place our measuring tapes.  It was a great teachable moment because rarely does anything go perfectly the first time, and changes need to be made.  I cant wait to take this experience back to my classroom to share with my students and fellow teachers. Thank you NASA, RGO, TFS, and everyone else that made this experience possible!!

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