How Zero-G Planes Work by Tom Scott   10 months ago

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The European Space Agency offered me a seat on their zero-g plane: it's an Airbus A310 that flies parabolic maneuvers, pulling up into the sky and then arcing back down, giving its passengers about 20 seconds of weightlessness (or "microgravity") at a time. Here's how it works.

Some people would have filmed their script on the ground, and just messed about while floating. I decided to go for something a bit more challenging.

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If you're a masters or PhD student from an ESA member state, and zero-g sounds like your thing, have a look at the Fly Your Thesis program: http://www.esa.int/Education/Fly_Your_Thesis -- the 2017-18 submissions are closed, but that just gives you time to start planning for next year...

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FAQs:

Why isn't Neil floating around the cabin in zero-g?: Sometimes, his feet are under a safety strap, so he doesn't drift away. Sometimes, he's holding on with one hand, and he's just that good at zero-g maneuvers.

Why's my face so red?: During the 1.8g phase, my heart has to work extra hard to pump blood up to my head -- when I switch to 0g, it takes a few seconds for it to slow pumping, so my blood pressure spikes.

What stabilised camera did I use?: You're looking at footage from a GoPro Fusion, stabilised in post using Adobe After Effects and the telemetry from the plane's sensors.

What did it feel like?: There'll be a behind-the-scenes video on the Matt and Tom channel on Saturday, hopefully!

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Camera: Melanie Cowan

Thank you to everyone at ESA and Novespace who helped make this happen!

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