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Microgravity Experiment



The 2007-2008 Rhodes College Binary Orbit Team (RhoBOT) is thrilled to announce that they have been selected to participate in the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program for the 2008 year.  We are one of forty teams given this opportunity.  Our flight week is July 10-19, 2008.  Please stay tuned to this site as we continue to update with important information regarding our project.

Overview of the Program:

The Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program, run by NASA, offers undergraduate students the chance to conduct an experiment in microgravity.  The reduced gravity environment is created by a modified C-9B airplane, also known as the “Weightless Wonder” or the “Vomit Comet.”  The airplane flies parabolic maneuvers over the Gulf of Mexico, creating about twenty five seconds of microgravity per parabola.  A team must submit a proposal to be reviewed by Microgravity University before being accepted into the program.  Upon acceptance, a team has three or four months to prepare the experiment.  Upon arrival at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, the team will spend ten days making final preparations and actually conducting the experiment.


Test Objectives:

The objective of this experiment is to establish a purely electrostatic binary orbit between two oppositely charged graphite coated Styrofoam spheres. The spheres will have a mass of 5 grams, radius of 1.5 cm and will be charged to a surface voltage of 20 kV.  Initially the spheres will be separated by a center to center distance of 20 cm.  Once charged, the spheres will be launched in opposite directions (perpendicular to the line adjoining their paths).  A successful orbital attempt will result in the two spheres orbiting one another about their center of mass.



Outreach Objectives:

  1. To generate excitement and interest in physics among students, especially those of underprivileged urban and rural backgrounds.
  2. To explain the scientific method and show students how it is applied to real world experiments.
  3. To help foster the growth of a mentoring relationship between Rhodes College and Memphis Central High School.
  4. To increase awareness of the educational opportunities available through NASA