Student Team to take NASA Microgravity Flight

MELBOURNE, FLA.—A Florida Tech team of physics, space sciences, chemistry, and engineering undergraduate students will experience the weightlessness of space. Their proposal was accepted by NASA Microgravity University to ride with their payload aboard a C-9 aircraft during March 22-31, departing from Houston, Texas.

The students will participate in the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities program. This allows undergraduates to propose, design, fabricate, fly and evaluate a reduced gravity experiment of their choice. The experience includes scientific research, hands-on experimental design, test operations and educational and public outreach activities.

The Florida tech team is one of 34 selected by their research proposals this year. Each team consists of undergraduate students, a designated journalist, and faculty advisers. Because the faculty do not fly, the students must be fully capable of conducting their experiment. The teams spend about two weeks in Houston, receiving physiological training, checking out their experiments, and completing their medical clearances.

Florida Tech team experiment examines the effects of gravity on the deposition of thin films in solar cells. These cells and related energy technologies are vital to the current Space Program. “They hold the key to further success and advancement, not just of space exploration but for their potential as an almost limitless source of energy,” said Joel Olson, Florida Tech professor of chemistry and a faculty adviser to the team. The reduced gravity aircraft usually flies 30 parabolic maneuvers over the Gulf of Mexico. “The pattern provides about 30 seconds of hypergravity (about 1.8G-2G) as the plane climbs to the top of the parabola. When the plane noses over the top of the parabola, to descend toward Earth, the aircraft experiences about 25 seconds of microgravity, allowing the students to experience the weightlessness of outer space,” said Professor Hamid Rassoul, the team’s other adviser and the Florida Tech-NASA coordinator for this effort. The Florida Tech team experiment is scheduled for 30 parabolic maneuvers.

Florida Tech student team members are : Robert Wilkos (team leader), John Ferreira , Stephen Garcia, Stephen Bukowsky, Jessi Mikkelson, Pat Malvoso, Mallory Berry, and Ben Pepper..

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