Last week participants from the International Space University 2013 Space Studies Program and students from the 2014 Masters of Science class had the opportunity to get “weightless” as they flew an experiment designed during their ISU studies on a microgravity flight in Bordeaux, France.
During their flight the students attempted to complete a number of tasks in “weightlessness” while wearing goggles that distorted their vision. Normally humans rely on a variety of senses such as sight and sound to determine where they are in relationship to their surroundings. One such sense is our vestibular system, which helps us determine up from down and if we’re moving or standing still. This system is disturbed in low gravity environments (like in space!) and can make it more difficult for astronauts to complete tasks. The data collected by the students will help them better understand how changes in our vision and different levels of gravity affect our ability to point and manipulate objects.
The idea for this experiment started during the 2013 Space Studies Program where participants attended a workshop on how to design and propose experiments for microgravity flights. After the workshop several groups of participants wrote their own microgravity proposals, one of which was accepted to fly in both September and October of 2014. Once their proposal was accepted, the SSP13 participants teamed with students from the 2014 Masters class to build, qualify, and test the experiment. The students are advised by Dr. Gilles Clement, a faculty member at ISU and expert in the effects of weightlessness on the human body.
Aside from experiencing “weightlessness” firsthand, this experiment was a valuable learning experience for the students as they applied the knowledge from their ISU classes to propose, design, build, test and operate a real scientific experiment. Another group of ISU students will fly in October to collect more data, but will not be the end of this project as the students now need to evaluate the data and potentially publish any interesting results!
We look forward to reading about the results of this student experiment and anticipate many more ISU students and alumni will be “weightless” in the near future!
Cover Picture Caption:
Students and staff of the September flight pose for a quick photo in front of the Novespace microgravity plane shortly before takeoff.
(from left to right, beginning with the back row):
Nathan Wong, MSC 14 Teaching Associate
Alix Dudly, MSC14 Student
Dario Schor, SSP13 Participant
Angie Bukley, ISU Faculty
Gilles Clement, ISU Faculty
Trisha Randazzo, MSC14 Student
Joshua Nelson, ISU Project Engineer
Anja Schuster, SSP13 Participant
Gabriele Librandi, SSP13 Participant
Katie Samoil, SSP13 Participant
Valentina Boccia, SSP13 Participant
Olivier “Le Fox” Renard, Volunteer