Anyone who wants to remain weightless for about 25 seconds should have a strong stomach

Every now and then, part of the International Space Station returns to Earth, but other than that you don't hear much about it anymore. You wouldn't dare say off the top of your head how many men are on board now and what they're doing. Working on friendship between peoples, as was the intention? Recently, a few of them had been suffering from headaches, but that was due to weightlessness.

The entire station will be put to sea around 2030, and by then people will want to know the true value of this station. Has all this expensive research into weightlessness done enough good? When this newspaper checked how the flag was hung twelve years ago, it didn't look good. As much as the work produced results, it rarely ended up in decent journals. The upper leaves have been treated with decalcification of the fur and loss of muscle. Or perfect crystal growth under “zero gravity”.

“The International Space Station is an orbital turkey. It has not produced any important science,” said Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in 2007. The picture has improved since then, and NASA, the funder and main user of the ISS, is pleased that It says that too. Annual Number of posts The “Top 100 Magazines” ranking has risen significantly and is also being streamlined nature, Sciences And the With people reachable. Judging by the positive trend in peer-reviewed articles expected Political scientists from Indiana University in 2017 that science on the International Space Station would be good. Science only takes time.

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Oddly enough, it was NASA itself that once again cast doubt on the value of its work. At the end of 2020, the organization celebrated twenty years of research summary Scientific achievements that can be attributed to the International Space Station. It turns out that this is a mess with no real hack, unless you want to consider growing lettuce and radishes that are weightless in themselves. Or monitor natural disasters and identify bacteria within the contaminated platform.

Old-fashioned artillery shell

NASA must look for new platforms for research that anticipates missions to the Moon and Mars. Fortunately, there are enough of those. Very inspiring platforms still come from aircraft that provide weightlessness by putting themselves in free fall and doing so, more or less Equivalent path Like an old-fashioned cannonball. The idea appeared in the early 1950s and was first used to train astronauts in 1959.

It's not complicated. You bring a plane flying horizontally to maximum speed and then suddenly pull it back sharply. Then you reduce almost all of the engine power until there is only some power left to overcome air resistance. The plane then follows the classic parabolic path, resulting in weightlessness for the passengers, even in the high part of the parabola.

How long the weightless period lasts depends on the initial speed and the steepness of the angle at which the climb began. It usually takes about 25 seconds, but this has been shown to be enough for many types of research. Up to 30 to 60 parabolas can be described per trip at intervals of a few minutes. The European Space Agency (ESA) uses an Airbus A310 from Novespace in Bordeaux to conduct its research. The French also offer “Zero G” trips for individuals for 7,000 euros. A strong stomach is appreciated.

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Weightlessness is not for the little man with his small wallet, unless he is lucky enough to take an elevator in a high-rise apartment building freed from its cables. They can then feel weightless for up to three seconds. With any luck, there'll be a facility at the bottom of the elevator shaft that can catch him, but if… Awful list From the incidents the Lifting Institute regularly posts, the chance of this happening is not high.

American astronauts training for the Mercury program in 1959.
NASA photos

A closed, streamlined box

It is best to arrange it in Drop towers (“Drop Towers”) that use the “elevator drop” concept to induce weightlessness for scientific research. There are about ten such towers. The Fallturm in Bremen, at 122 meters high, is the largest, and can also be vacuumed.

Elevator cabins always have the shape of a streamlined closed box in which test setups can be placed, with room for cameras. Sometimes the temperature can also be controlled. At time zero, the box is launched to a great height, and then, depending on the height of the fall, weightlessness occurs for a few seconds. In Bremen, the height of the fall is 110 meters and it takes 4.7 seconds to fall. But it can be doubled by shooting the box from the ground floor with an air catapult. This is then followed by a kind of compressed vertical parabola.

The fall tower at Portland State University in Oregon, which is 31.1 meters high, has a fall time of 2.1 seconds. When extensive scientific research is not being conducted, teacher William A. Dietrich composition for small research Educational experiences. He places a cup of water in which a ball plug is floating in the falling container and asks his students what they think would happen if the container fell. They are then shown a video of the experiment. There are about a dozen such videos: of streamers, stacks of coins, a ball that can roll into a bowl, and more. Fascinating! The question was what do the short, jerky videos remind us of? Suddenly the answer was: to the first pictures taken of the Earth from space: by A V2 rocket In 1946 and A Thor missile In 1959. Go see it.

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Megan Vasquez

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