The Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology

Altered Gravity


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Team Photo 2008

Team Photo 2009

Welcome! To give you a quick introduction, we are a team of six undergraduate students, a graduate student, a senior staff member, and two faculty members. This year, we assembled and organized ourselves in order to design and fly an experiment on NASA's Weightless Wonder. The Weightless Wonder is a C9-B airplane (think big passenger plane, 5 seats per row) with a peculiar flight pattern that simulates microgravity (zero gravity) and hypergravity (1.8x gravity). Based on this flight pattern, we designed our experiment to analyze the effects of space travel on cell function.

In mid-July this year we traveled to Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas for a period just short of two weeks to conduct our experiment. We were surprised to arrive and find our days jam packed with training for the flight, experiment preparation, and finally an exceptionally memorable flight. Now that we have returned from Houston, we are collecting our data and preparing presentations to share with the public.

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Reduced Gravity Student Flight Program is located at Ellington Field (part of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center) in Houston, Texas. This program provides undergraduate students with the rare opportunity to conduct an experiment of their design in a zero gravity environment. The program further provides students with practice in scientific research, developing collaborations with other laboratories, and educational/public outreach. The Weightless Wonder (a.k.a. "The Vomit Comet") generally flies 30 parabolic maneuvers at 30,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico. This pattern simulates approximately 30 seconds of hypergravity (1.8G) and 25 seconds of microgravity (0G). (This image is slightly inaccurate; the microgravity portion of the flight takes place between the top and bottom of the parabola, as the plane is descending; whereas the hypergravity takes place between the bottom and the top of the parabola, as the plane is ascending). Initially, the plane was used to train astronauts and test equipment in a microgravity environment. In the 1970's it developed into a program for students from around the country for scientific research. It has also been used to shoot the film Apollo 13, starring Tom Hanks.


Parabolic Flight Path

Plane DiveCell Dishes

            Project Summary                                           Project Details


Altered Gravity Team MembersPresentations

               Team Members                                              Presentations


Johnny WeightlessRig

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