Students experiment in zero-gravity

NASA research airplane

A Boeing 737 prototype, used by NASA for avionics research. This year is the last year for a NASA program that allows students to conduct science experiments in a simulation of zero-gravity, which is achieved through a unique flight-path.

This week, a group of students are heading to NASA's Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. True to its name, the program puts particpants in a plane that flies up and down, approximating zero gravity so the young scientists can do their work. 

Ish Sanchez, who is studying Mechanical Engineering at San Jose State University, is one such student participating in the program. He says being in an environment without gravity is profoundly different from the typical human experience.

“Your whole outlook on life -- up until the point when you experience zero gravity -- is completely shifted,” says Sanchez. “There’s no up and down, there’s no side walls. The mere act of pushing a button can send you off in another direction.”

The group wants to study particles created in potential in-space manufacturing or asteroid mining operations — The experiment will cut some carbon fiber rods and observe the different particle trajectories from cutting in zero gravity.

Though after this round of experiments, there may be a failure to launch -- The program is being cancelled due to budgetary constraints after this flight.

About the author

Ben Johnson is the host of Marketplace Tech.

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