Archive for Saturday, June 3, 2006

KU team enjoys high-flying week

Engineering students ‘pumped’ to attend NASA reduced-gravity program

June 3, 2006


Ben Parrott can't wait to get on the "vomit comet."

"I've been planning this for a long time," the Kansas University senior said. "I want to jump up and do as many somersaults as I can. I want to see how many somersaults I can do."

Parrott and three other KU students are at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston awaiting their chance to experience weightlessness aboard a NASA C-9 aircraft.

The team, led by recent KU graduate Loral O'Hara, is among 65 student teams from across the country participating in the NASA Reduced Gravity Student Flight Program.

The team devised an experiment involving a satellite propulsion system that will be tested in the weightless environment.

They are on the first KU team to take part in the program, and it took them two years to get there.

"It's been a long time coming," O'Hara said.

The team on Friday experienced a hyperbaric pressure chamber and a low-oxygen environment.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, they'll take to the air.

The plane will soar above the Gulf of Mexico, climbing and falling in a series of parabolas. During the free falls, the students will experience a reduced-gravity environment and conduct their experiment.

More about the weightless wonders

The students have been told what it will feel like: a bit like skydiving, a bit like being underwater, a bit like neither experience.

"They say it's like a lot of different things," O'Hara said. "You can't really compare the feeling of being totally weightless to anything."

Parrott said at a free point, he hopes to spin in somersaults as many times as he can.

"I'm superexcited," he said. "I'm way pumped."

The whole experience of going to Houston has been a bit daunting for team member Zach Schauf, but he said he's getting acclimated.

"It's NASA, for crying out loud," he said. "As a student who's never gone to school outside of Kansas, it's kind of a big deal."


compmd 9 years, 5 months ago

Loral and Zach, your friends on the NASA EPSCoR UAV team are cheering you on. :)

Reality_Check, you are absolutely correct. Some of the finest engineers and brightest people I've met have been affiliated with NASA. There are so many things that we use in our lives whose development was spurred by NASA.

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