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Undergrads Fly High For Weightless Science

December 22, 2009

NASA has selected 28 undergraduate student teams to test their science experiments in simulated weightlessness. The teams were selected to fly in the summer of 2010 with NASA’s Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities and Systems Engineering Educational Discovery (SEED) programs.

Selected teams will test and evaluate their experiments aboard an aircraft modified to simulate a reduced-gravity environment. The aircraft will fly approximately 30 roller-coaster-like climbs and dips during experiment flights to produce periods of weightlessness and hyper-gravity ranging from 0 g to 2 g.

“Today’s students will be the ones going to the moon and beyond to live, explore and work,” said Douglas Goforth, the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.”This project gives them a head start in preparing for those future ventures by allowing them to conduct hands-on research and engineering today in a unique reduced-gravity laboratory.”

The Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program provides a rare academic experience for undergraduate students to propose, design, fabricate, fly and evaluate a reduced-gravity experiment. The overall experience includes scientific research, hands-on experimental design, test operations and outreach activities.

Teams selected to participate in the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program are from Utah State University, San Jacinto College North, the College of New Jersey, State University of New York at Buffalo, West Virginia University, Purdue University, Yale University, Austin Community College, the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, two teams from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and two teams from the University of Michigan. Teams also may invite a full-time, accredited journalist to fly with them and document the team’s experiment and experiences.

Teams selected to participate in the SEED program will work with NASA scientists, engineers and researchers on systems engineering projects that use a reduced gravity environment to test spaceflight hardware, spacecraft components and spaceflight procedures. Each team is assigned a NASA principal investigator to help prepare their experiment for flight. The SEED teams also will participate in at least two videoconferences through NASA’s Digital Learning Network to work with other engineering and agency organizations.

The SEED teams for 2010 are from Washington University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin, Auburn University, the Ohio State University, the University of Nebraska, the University of Toledo, Carthage College, Yale University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Colorado, and Boise State University, from which two teams were selected.

Under these programs, NASA continues its investment in the nation’s education programs. It is directly tied the agency’s education goal of strengthening NASA and the nation’s future workforce. Through this and other college and university programs, NASA will identify and develop the critical skills and capabilities needed to carry out its space exploration mission.

The flights are provided in cooperation with the Reduced Gravity Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. For more information about the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program or to view abstracts of the selected team’s experiments visit: http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov

For more information about SEED, visit: http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov/se

For more information about NASA’s education programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/education




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