Why a parabolic flight ?
teachers and instructors working for the Euro Space Society, we lead
the "Space Classes" at the Euro Space Center at Transinne in
Belgium. To optimize the space classes it is necessary for us to
inform ourselves: to do this we follow lectures, we take part in
workgroups and we visit exhibitions about space and astronomy.
One of the most important themes during the space classes is
"microgravity". To understand what microgravity is, and how it feels
to be in weightlessness, you must experience it yourself if you want
to explain it more accurately to the young people. Because they have
so many questions about microgravity, such as :
How does it feel
to be in weightlessness ? What is a parabolic flight ?
||Signe du destin, Monsieur Vladimir
Pletser a donné le coup de pouce voire le coup de main
nécessaire à l'élaboration des expériences destinées à être testées
durant le vol parabolique.|
So it's absolutely necessary for us to be
correctly informed about this important part of space-science.
Young people in our space classes (ages 10 -18) don't know what
it is. They think that we have a room at the Euro Space Center in
which you can be in weightlessness. Or that you must travel in space
as far as you can to be in microgravity. It's a very pleasant
situation to be in weightlessness, but not so easy to explain,
because you have to answer the following questions : what is weight?
what is mass? hat is the difference between mass and weight? and of
course, what is gravity?
That's the reason why we were candidates to fly on the Airbus A300-Zero G from Novespace
in Bordeaux in France, and take part in the parabolic flight
Dominique and the experiments
The crew cabin - Airbus A300
means to experience parabolic flights are simply based on toys. Toys
are children's objects from their world and they know these well.
But how do they work in microgravity? Some toys even work on
physical principles (the laws of Newton).
Mireille and Edwin
had the opportunity to perform these experiments in the microgravity
environment of the Airbus A300 - Zero G through the European Space
Agency in the 29th Campaign from November 21-24, 2000.
this parabolic flight, we made 31 parabolas. And on each parabola,
we were in weightlessness or better in microgravity during 20
The Airbus A300-Zero G flies about 6000 m high at a
speed of 810 km/h. At a precious moment the airplane pulls up in 20
s to 7500 m. At that moment you feel that you weigh two times more,
2 g. You hear the commander through the microphone… thirty… forty…
Magically our bodies were lifted off the floor, our
hands and legs moved in midair, as if they were suspended by
invisible puppet strings… we were
We floated around and attempted to grab onto
something. With almost no effort we had the complete freedom to move
and float in any direction. It was really fun for 20-25
Afterwards we heard… twenty… thirty… pull out!…
again we felt two times heavier. After this first weightless-feeling
we began our experiences for the next thirty parabolas for 20-25 s
each. It's an extremely short time for the experience because you
must find the best way to do your test. So we took two or three
parabolas for one experience. We were all very satisfied about our
It was an extraordinary life experience for us
and we recommended it to everyone, especially to young people, and
of course to everyone who can't go into space! We were filled with
happiness! Now it is easier for us to explain what weightlessness
is… and we discover the joy and excitement of science and technology
in microgravity, in a situation of free falling!
| Click here to see
an aimation of the parabolic flight
the experiments were filmed and photographed to be used during the
space classes and astronaut stages. Two pedagogical panels are also
made to explain our adventure to the visitors of the new space
exhibition of the Euro Space Center.
Some of our experiences :
not so easy, because the gyroscope must be fixed on a string to your
hand, and when it starts spinning it gets tangled up. The spinning
motion of the gyroscope in microgravity works like it does on earth,
only with more elegance and style. It's very beautiful to see
The flying banana
meaning was to rotate a half-peeled banana around its length-axis.
It then began to spin like a propeller. For this experience, we had
to take three parabolas before we were satisfied. That was not so
easy, because at first we did it to fast and afterwards it didn't
spin, and so on… But it was very funny!
A spinning top
earth, the friction between the top's spinning tip and the ground or
table causes the top to slow down.
In microgravity the top keeps
on spinning until it touches something or someone.
A spinning top
continues to turn until a force acts on it.
CONCLUSION FROM OUR SPINNING OBJECTS
conclusion concerning spinning objects is that they rotate around
their center of mass.
convinced that such an experience would be more quiet and easier on
board the Space Shuttle or the Space Station without turbulences.
Mireille and Edwin : the gyroscope and spinning
Vladmir Pletser and Pierre-Emmanuel : the spinning
We observed the movements of a yoyo during the different
phases of the parabolic flight. At 2 G's the yoyo had difficulties
to come back. At zero G the cord of the yoyo was floating. The
spinning movement of the yoyo coudn't rewind the cord properly. The
yoyo became a helpless floating thing.
A balsa plane
During the different phases of the parabolic flight, two
Euro Space Center instructors threw a plane at each other. At 2 G's,
it is more difficult to raise the arm and make a throwing movement.
The flight of the plane was shorter and the plane flew faster. At
zero G the plane floated. Without an attraction on the plane, the
wings of the plane become useless. They don't have a carrying
At zero G the plumb line floats around freely. But at 2 G's
we can see a diminution of the pendular movement of factor
We also used a Velcro scratch - dartboard. At 1 G you only
need some ability to draw and reach the dartboard with the darts
ball. At zero G you have to point lower to reach the dartboard, at 2
G's you have to point higher to reach it.
Liquids in state of microgravity
Another experiment was to study the behavior of liquids in
state of micro gravity. In a plastic container colored liquids were
injected at the moment of micro gravity. The liquids started to
float around and took the shape of a ball.
A dinky toy car in state of microgravity
funny experiment for children was the behavior of a dinky toy car in
a toy circuit with a looping. At 1 G, the car took the looping
without any difficulties, at 2 G's the car didn't even reach the top
of the looping. The doubled pressure on the car made the toy too
heavy. But at zero g the movements of the car were indescribable. It
Mr Vladimir Pletser I experienced a very interesting experiment. In
state of microgravity he tumbled me around with my eyes closed. The
inner-ear information already being disturbed due to the
microgravity, you don't know in witch position you are. The only
thing I felt were Mr Pletser's hands. At the end of the parabola he
said, "I have you on the floor. You can open your eyes now." Big was
my surprise when I noticed that I was sitting on the sealing, Mr
Pletser holding me against it.
"This is a practical astronaut
joke" he explained afterwards. This experiment shows us the loss of
orientation when we shut down two senses of the human body, the
sight and the sense of stability.
scale experiment was placed onboard the airplane to study the
evolution of weight during the different phases of the parabolic
flight. Fixed with Velcro scratches a Euro Space Center instructor
took place on the scale and observed the changes of his weight.
During the 2 G phase his weight almost doubled. At the zero G phase,
his weight suddenly throttled back to zero Newton. This experiment
shows us that in state of microgravity the weight is equal to
Feel the free-floating |
Pierre-Emmanuel trying to draw Tania ...
We would like to thank Vladimir Pletser.
Links : CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales) and ESA (European Space