Lose weight fast the ESA way!

Every year 120 students studying in ESA member states win the opportunity to take part in a dedicated student parabolic flight campaign, by submitting microgravity-based experiment proposals to the Agency. The next campaign is scheduled for Spring 2004, with proposals due by 12 January. And if you want to know what the experience really feels like read on!

First hand report from zero-g

Through the aircraft window I watch probably one of the more alarming sights to be seen on any ordinary flight: a wing flexing as my plane tilts down towards the surface of the Atlantic.

Although the fact that I am floating in my seat as I observe this demonstrates that this is no ordinary flight and the Airbus is no ordinary aircraft. This is the final day of the 35th ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign, providing professional European researchers with access to microgravity 20 seconds per parabola flown.

Everything is under control. As the pilots finally start righting the aircraft a view of the sky replaces the sea and I bump back on my seat as Zero-G is replaced by gravity close to double that on Earth.

The A-300 has been specially customised for parabolic flights. For practical reasons it lacks a bathroom, although the 12 teams aboard are far too focused on their experiments - all specifically designed to take advantage of the weightless environment - to really notice.

Pilot's eye view

Joining the three pilots in the A-300 cockpit makes for an even more startling view. As they tilt the aircraft upwards to an angle of 47 degrees the sky turns a strikingly deep blue and all sight of the ground is lost. The force of the engines combined with gravity makes me sink into my seat, until suddenly Captain Gilles Le Barzic announces 'injection!' and the 20-second period of weightlessness begins.

The aircraft traces a parabola through the air and a brief swirl of clouds can be seen before we are facing more dar

Contact: Dieter Isakeit
European Space Agency

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