Ready for Houston

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Publication Date: 7/7/2008

Rhodes College students Brad Atkins, Gavin Franks, Joshua Fuchs, Lulu Li, Chase Sliger and Jennifer Thompson are preparing to travel to NASA’s  Johnson Space Center in Houston this week to conduct their experiment aboard the “Weightless Wonder” aircraft.

The team will arrive at the center’s Ellington Field, where astronauts do their T-38 training, on July 10. They then will go through physiological training and fly their experiment during the week of July 14-18.  The experiment will attempt to establish an orbit between two oppositely electrically charged spheres during their reduced gravity flights. After the flight, the team will evaluate findings, draw conclusions and provide the results to NASA.

Each year, the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program (RGSFOP) gives undergraduate students the opportunity to propose, build and fly a reduced gravity experiment. The teams will perform the experiments aboard NASA’s C-9 aircraft, which produces weightlessness 18 to 25 seconds at a time by executing a series of about 30 parabolas – a steep climb followed by a free fall – over the Gulf of Mexico. During the free falls, the students will be able to gather data in the unique environment and experience near-weightlessness.

“We are excited that our program provides once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for aspiring scientists and engineers to study and understand their craft. The students gain useful skills by participating in the program through collaborative planning and teamwork,” said Douglas Goforth, RGSFOP Program Manager.