Another Fully Booked ZERO G Flight Flies From LB Airport; Company Plans Three From LGB In Feb. 2022; We Explain EXACTLY What It Felt Like on Oct. 2020 Flight; Pix Show Publisher Began As A Clumsy "Spaz In Space" But Learned To Maneuver In Weightlessness
|(June 5, 2021, 5:20 p.m.) -- The firm isn't based in Long Beach but in Virginia, but LBREPORT.com treats it as part our continuing "Long Beach's Future in Space" series. Earlier today (June 5, 2021) 24 individuals boarded the nationally famous "ZERO G" (weightless flights) aircraft at LB Airport (LGB) for an unforgettable experience.
Today's flight was fully booked weeks ago. It was ZERO G's second LGB flight in its 2021 national tour (LBREPORT.com coverage here) and the company added and then rescheduled a second flight after the first flight filled up. And the company has scheduled three LGB flights (Feb. 5, 6 and 7, 2022) to meet anticipated demand locally. And that demand isn't just here; it's in other markets nationally.
On October 25, 2020, we were aboard a ZERO G flight from LGB as a reporter and we recap the experience in words and photos below.
No, it's not a roller coaster stomach-dropping adrenaline-pumping experience. It's way beyond that, counter-intuitive with the aircraft's parabolic climbs and drops.
The flight is smooth, not jerky or bumpy, with the caveat that as an object floating in weighlessness you can and do bump into walls, the ceiling, the floor and sometimes others. It's physically gentle but sensually overwhelming. A fancy word is ethereal but Prof. Jose Andrade of Cal Tech (LBREPORT.com coverage of his ZERO G experiments here) summed it up more simply. He called it "beautiful."
As demonstrated by the photos below, I was initially a clumsy "spaz in space" (my term.) Screen saves are from phone video. Sharper pix are from ZERO G's on-board photog and Go-Pro cameras mounted along the walls (photos courtesy ZERO G.)
Oct. 2020 pandemic fliers and ZERO G crew wore face masks; I'm somewhat immune suppressed (damned cancer but doing OK) so I also wore a face shield.
Publisher Pearl horizontal at the ceiling.
I pushed off from the floor and clunked my head on the ceiling.
So how does it "feel?" Here's how it felt for me. Count off two seconds (one-one-thousand, two-one thousand.) In the first one-one-thousand, it feels like an elevator beginning to descend. For the second two-one-thousand, that descending feeling gets a bit stronger (not unpleasant) and then the floor drops away.
But the floor doesn't drop away. The plane's entire fuselage drops and we are floating. We are weightless.
It's (literally) other-worldly, very strange, with no traditional "up" or "down." As seen in the photos above, on an early parabola, I gave a strong push off the floor, flew up to the ceiling, clunked my head, spun around, clunked my butt and ended up with my feet on the ceiling. No, I wasn't "hanging" from the ceiling and no, I didn't feel "upside down" (which would require gravity.) I was simply a weightless object with my feet on a ceiling looking down at a floor. Yes, that is sensually bizarre and requires real getting-used to.
When the plane pulls up, the floor comes back up. It clunked my butt as I lay flat for about thirty seconds pulling 1.8 G's to enter the next parabola. From my experience, we experienced roughly 15 to 25 seconds of weightlessness per parabola. Our pilot executed each one smoothly twelve times in a row (preceded by three reduced gravity parabolas simulating Mars and our Moon.)
Some fliers chose to spin wildly and treat the experience as an extreme sport. Of course it's really cool and fun (even at our age we like doing cool and fun things) and yes we did some spins and flips too. But we're a wonky reporter and wanted to appreciate every second of weightlessness while experimenting and learning from different moves and maneuvers. By end of the dozen zero gravity parabolas, I was no astronaut but I was actually pretty good at handling the weightless world.
That new skill came in handy. In one of the later parabolas, I was floating above a woman when the pilot said the plane was about to pull up. Uh oh. In about two seconds, I would be plastered at nearly 2G's on top of this stranger of the opposite sex unless we could both maneuver fast in zero gravity. She scooted her rear-end aft-ward; I maneuvered forward and we both laughed as the floor came up and we avoided some unplanned physical familiarity.
In addition to meeting consumer demand ($6,700 per flier plus tax), ZERO G (much to its credit) also enables scientists and teachers to use its flights for experiments and teaching purposes. These flights are not some carnival ride; they offer very teachable moments.
The woman in the photo below is Brooke Owens, an alumna of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the International Space University.
She worked at the NASA's Johnson Space Center, the non-profit XPRIZE Foundation, the Federal Aviation Administrationís Office of Commercial Space Transportation, and the White House Office of Management and Budget. She died of breast cancer at age 35.
Ms. Owens is today an inspiration for women majoring in science and technology. 44 exceptional women won competitive summer internships ("Fellowships" arranged by the Brooke Owens Fellowship) at various space-related firms. Two are at Long Beach based firms: Virgin Orbit and Rocket Lab. There are other Owens Fellows at firms nearby, including Space X in Hawthorne, and still others across the country.
Perhaps one (or more) of the Brooke Owens Fellows will be among the next to design, direct or pilot future flights to our Moon, Mars and beyond. For the rest of us, this is no longer a future simply to imagine. We can now physically experience it. We and others touched the future aboard that ZERO G aircraft.
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