AUSTIN (KXAN) — High up in the air, Austinites will soon get to experience the improbable and defy gravity.
How does it work, though?
“I think everybody remembers that they once heard the word parabola in, you know, math class a long, long time ago,” said Noelle Pearson with Zero-G. She said that Zero-G works using parabolic flight.
First, passengers on a Boeing 727 take off at a 45-degree angle. They then experience a g-force of 1.8.
“You’re being pulled into the floor of the fuselage. And then at the top, you’re hitting the apex and going into a nosedive.” As the plane plummets to the ground, passengers are lifted off of the cabin flood.
“That’s what’s creating that zero-gravity environment that can be sustained for about 20 to 30 seconds at a time,” Pearson said.
The plane then tilts up and gravity is restored.
How long does the Zero-G Experience last?
Pearson said that up to 30 passengers will experience roughly seven minutes of zero gravity during the flight. “We do 15 parabolas per trip,” Pearson said. “So the first one is a Mars weight, where you experience 1/3 of your weight, two that are lunar gravity. So you’re 1/6 year weight, and then we do 12, zero gravity parabolas.”
They work up to zero gravity because you can’t go from gravity to no gravity without a little risk.
“If you go straight into that zero gravity, there’s much more likelihood that you might feel a little bit more stomach aware, if you will,” Pearson said.
Using parabolic flight for science
Parabolic flight has been used for decades in the pursuit of science and entertainment. You’ve likely seen it used before.
NASA’s Reduced Gravity Research Program began in 1959 as part of Project Mercury. The original plane used was a C-131 Samaritan nicknamed the “vomit comet.” NASA used the program to train astronauts ahead of space launches.
The film Apollo 13 was shot using parabolic flight. Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon underwent roughly 600 parabolic dives while shooting the zero-gravity scenes in the movie.
In 2010, NASA ended its parabolic flight program. Since then, they’ve contracted with Zero-G when they’ve needed to perform experiments using parabolic flight.
Zero-G was founded in the early-2000s by two former NASA employees and an entrepreneur.
How much does it cost to experience space?
Pearson said that each ticket aboard the Zero-G Experience costs around $8,000 plus tax. They will have a booth at this year’s South By Southwest festival. The flight itself will occur on March 20.