Students Design, Build And Test Microgravity Experiments
October 30, 2012

Students Design, Build And Test Microgravity Experiments

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

The European Space Agency (ESA) gave teams of students the opportunity to fly their experiments in near-weightlessness.

ESA said for three days last week, it allowed student teams to fly their experiments aboard Novespace´s Airbus A300 Zero-G aircraft as part of the "Fly Your Thesis" project.

During the project, three student groups flew along with nine professional teams in the 57th ESA parabolic flight campaign, investigating effects that are impossible to study on the ground under gravity conditions.

Students were given the opportunity to experience how to design, build and perform experiments in microgravity.

The Hydronauts2Fly studied how the posture of a relaxed person changes in microgravity. During this experiment, cameras recorded the limb positions of a floating volunteer to improve the layout of future space stations and help design better spacesuits.

"Microgravity was not as strange as I expected," Martin Kaspar from the Hydronauts2Fly team, said in a press release. "In the first 11 parabolas I was the test subject, and blindfolded. It felt very similar to being underwater."

ESA said the LINVforROS Corn experiment studied variations in reactive molecules containing oxygen produced by maize plants as they were subjected to the different g-forces during the flights.

"Our first impression of the experiment is good. We performed a preliminary analysis of our data: we have a good number of signals," LINVforROS team member Diego Comparini said in the press release.

The Dustbrothers team looked into the levitation of highly porous sintered glass plates due to the "Knudsen compressor effect." This effect is thought to be important in the early phases of planet formation, where it is possible that it is at least partially responsible for the movement of dust away from the star in a protoplanetary disc of matter.

"The experiment worked just as we expected. Future data analysis will show the quality of the recorded data, but we are confident it will be quite good," Christophe Dürmann, one of the Dustbrothers team, said in the press release.

All of the student teams will now analyze their data and results to form their Masters thesis, PhD thesis or research programs.

“My thanks to ESA Education and the Novespace team for this great opportunity,” Emanuela Monetti, from the LINVforROS team, said in the press release. “This experience was for me one of the best in my life.”