Departures: The Zero G Gravity Experience
By: Richard Crawford
In April 2001, Dennis Tito boarded a Soyuz TM-32 space rocket and headed to the international space station where he spent five days. He was the first person to go into space as a tourist. Now, 13 years later, Space Tourism offers unprecedented views and zero gravity experience.
It will be several years before space vacation becomes common practice, but there is another experience that gives you that sense of weightlessness and it’s available today. The Zero G Corporation offers the trip of a lifetime for those brave enough to enter the modified fuselage of a Boeing 727. Highly skilled pilots perform parabolic maneuvers that seem more fitting for a jet fighter than a passenger airliner, but the payoff is amazing. During the coarse of the flight you will float like an Astronaut and fly in a weightless environment. It is the most exhilarating, fascinating and unforgettable excursion you will ever take without leaving Earth’s orbit.
The day starts early with a good breakfast followed by a safety and educational briefing. This is also the time to don the flight suit and prepare mentally for the ride. Typically the group size is 20-30 people so there is plenty of anxious chitchat and nervous energy on the short bus ride to the airfield. The boarding process is no different from a commercial flight. Present your boarding pass, find your seat and fasten the belt buckle. The one glaring difference is that apart from the 30 or so seats at the back of the aircraft the fuselage is void of any equipment. The stark white padding covering the whole interior is not unlike that of a psych ward, which may say something about those of us who choose to embark on this flight.
20 minutes later you are lying flat on the floor facing the ceiling. As the airplane performs the first of its many parabolas a strange sensation of lightness comes over you. Your body weighs about 1/3 of its normal mass, which is how you would experience the moon. After a few moments back on the floor the sensation returns and this time you are subject to 1/6 of your normal weight.
Just before complete weightlessness your body experiences 1.8 G’s, and you are pinned to the floor as the aircraft pulls out of a downward path. It’s difficult to lift your limbs or move your head. Over the next few seconds the influence of gravity slowly alleviates and you feel transference of mass as you gently float up from the floor. Complete weightlessness is a difficult concept to grasp initially and your instinct is to flay your arms and legs as though swimming, hoping to give yourself controlled directional movement. You soon realize that the only way to start in one direction is to push off from a solid wall and you learn very quickly that this is also the only way to stop. It takes several cycles to get it right but each moment of freedom from gravity is sensational.
Inevitably the trip will end before you want it to. You might even be dragged off the plane like a child being pulled from a playground; kicking and screaming for one last go around. Fortunately on-board cameras, both still and video, will capture your whole experience so you will be able to share with family and friends. Of course like any other airline they do have a loyalty program so feel free to sign up and earn as many gravity-free air miles as you can. Perhaps one day your experience will pay off and you will be able to glance back upon the earth from outer space.
Original article published in the March/April 2014 issue of Private Air Luxury Homes Magazine