Monday, April 13, 2009


Here is a video taken by Joe of some zero gravity parabolas.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Second Flight Day :(

Today we were scheduled for Brad, Isa and Dr. Crosby (aka Monkey) to fly. They were given their meds and barf bags. They got on the plane. The plane took off...YAY! About 45 min later the plane landed. There was way too much turbulence for them to do any parabolas. They thought they were going to be able to fly later in the afternoon but at the 11:30 flight briefing they were told the flight has been grounded until tomorrow. They were so close too!

Team Picture on the First Flight Day

Kevin 'Monkey' Crosby even looks happy!

Getting ready to board the aircraft

The Green means we are good to go...the the green #1 means that the team did something stupid and if they get another one of those #1s that means they don't fly...Carthage, Boise, and Washington know whats up.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The First Flight Day!

Today, Joe, Sam, Myself (Erin) and, our NASA mentor, Dr. Agui few on the microgravity plane (aka G-Force 1). We had our pre-flight briefing at 7:45am then our motion sickness briefing. We were given a combination of medication that is both an upper and a downer. So at some point in the day we will be wide awake..then get real sleepy. We then boarded the aircraft, with two vomit bags in pocket. As the plane was still climbing to elevation we were told to get out of our seats and begin prepping our experiments.
Once everyone was ready the plane began to climb at a very sharp angle. At this time, the force of the acceleration is normal to the floor and about 2g forces. So if you weigh 110 lbs at this time if you were on a scale you would weigh 220 lbs. As the nose of the plane begins to tip over we then experience reduced gravity. I had done this program last year and felt like I new what to expect. As we started the first lunar I started floating up...and away from our rig. I just waved goodbye to Joe and Sam because I felt like I couldn't get back to them...then Sam pulled me back. We then began to collect data and take notes. At one point in the flight we were repeating the same thing that we did on the previous parabola so we decided we would have some fun...we started jumping up and down and all the cameras came over to us. At the end of that parabola, one of the heads of the Microgravity program came up to us and told us to try and hold off on having so much fun...because we may distract the other teams from their work. This was the second year in a row that I was told to stop looking like I was having so much fun. At the end of the flight we were given 3 zero gravity parabolas. These are always the craziest because its really hard to get used to the fact that the slightest touch on a wall will make you fly across the airplane in the other direction. For the first one we all went flying up. to the top of the plane. As I tried to adjust myself I ended up moving closer to our flight rig, which contains our experiment. Just as I realized I was in the worst position possible for when we started the 2g portion again, the flight crew yelled feet down! ...shoot. So I tried to get away from the rig again...still couldn't. I then started to feel gravity again, which meant, in a few seconds I was going down. I pretty much ended up flailing around trying to get away from the rig but it just wasn't happening. Finally, one of the flight crew just yelled "SOMEBODY GRAB HER!!!" ..I'm just floating there...thinking, 'yes, please somebody grab me!' Our NASA mentor then pulled me over by him...I ended up kicking on of our cameras (not very hard at all) and then finally got to a safe area. It was intense. The next one Sam and I went flying around running into each other. The third and final parabola Sam and I took off to the closest window, Joe was already there. As we got close to the window there was a photographer in the way...and there was no stopping we kind of took him out in the process. It was sort of a slow motion collision..we couldn't stop, he couldn't move, and we apologized for running into him before it even happened. So basically, we had a GREAT time on our flight. We had SOOO much fun!
So if you are still reading this, you might want to know how our actual reseach went. Well to sum it up, good. We had 1 problem, one of our rotating drums stopped rotating. That was a little upsetting but we were able to manage and fix the problem. AND the best part, we learned something really interesting about the angle of repose of the lunar dust simulant JSC-1A under a vacuum system. The angle of this dust was almost vertical, which we had not seen at all under ground tests. So that was pretty sweet.

Joe and I laying down because there were 2gs of force on us

Sam and I floating in Space...well close enough to space


Monday, March 30, 2009

Test Readiness Review

Today we had our Test Readiness Review (TRR). What we had to do was tell about 20 NASA employees about our experiment and pretty much prove to them that our experiment was safe to fly. We were a little nervous and wanted to make sure we were prepared. Sam and I were the designated speakers for our experiment. We gave our little presentation then asked the committee if they had any questions. There was silence. Which, in this case, is a good thing. Because if they have a question, they know the answer and they know you have messed up in some way. So...we waited...then finally, the Electrical Engineer then asked us to tape something...then someone else asked if our cameras were going to be plugged in. We said no, unless the batteries start to run out. They said ok, then moved on. The next group talked to the committee for about 20 minutes then had to move on but they had to go back and talk to that team again...we were so grateful we knew our stuff and were well prepared.

Once we were approved we were allowed to load our experiment onto the plane.

The Carthage Team!

We were then issued our flight suits. Below is Joe and I in our sweet flight suits!

Erin and Joe

Sunday, March 29, 2009

We met all the astronauts from STS-119...and More!

The Shuttle arrived yesterday, Saturday, in Florida. Today the entire crew of STS-119 was flown out to Ellington Field. We were invited to their press conference...which we pretty much missed...but we got there just in time to meet the astronauts. It was awesome! We talked to Sandy, who was on the ISS for 4 months. She was really excited to talk to us because we were part of the microgravity program AND that we all said we wanted to be astronauts...because who wouldn't want to be.
Anyway, here are some pictures from the day!

The girls with a female astronaut...awesome.

Brad and Joe with Sandy, she was up on the ISS for 4 months

The girls and Sandy!

Tony and I...he was my favorite because he is always so happy...we go way back...

All the astronauts from the most recent Shuttle mission on Space Shuttle Discovery for STS-119.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Dusty

Carthage Microgravity Team Rig

3 of our team members (Joe, Sam, and Brad) got up bright and early to head out to physiological training while the rest of us journeyed over to the hangar at Ellington Field to work on the rig. We had planned to get some more testing done and run through in flight procedures; however, upon pumping down one of the drums, we soon discovered that a second expensive butterfly valve was no longer working. Isa, Erin, Dr. Crosby, and I spent all day trying different ways to get these valves to work. By the end of the workday, we were all feeling pretty frustrated. We spent some time in a hardware store hoping to find some smidgen of inspiration and hope.

We picked up the others from physio training at the NBL (Neutral Buoyancy Lab) where NASA houses a 4ft deep 102ft by 202ft 6.2 million gallon swimming pool where the astronauts train. Our team had a fun experience in the hypobaric chamber where they underwent oxygen deprivation to see what their symptoms of hypoxia are.

Later in the evening, we were picked up by astronaut Barbara Morgan (STS-118 backup and Challenger shuttle backup for Crista McAullife). We had a great time hanging out with her and her Boise State Microgravity team.

Today and tomorrow we are not allowed to work on our rig as the hangar is closed to us. Sunday should prove to be exciting though. The STS-119 astronaut welcome home party will be held in our hangar at Ellington, and we are invited to attend!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Flight Week: First Day!

Today was our first day of flight week. We arrived at Ellington Field and received our sweet security badges which allow us into some buildings that the general public can’t get into. We then were welcomed to Ellington by the Reduced Gravity staff. The welcome basically consisted of, Hello, we are really proud of all the teams for working so hard to get here…now if you do anything on this list, you aren’t going to fly, your team will be kicked off of the Air Base, or you will be surrounded by 20 men with machine guns and sent to jail…which basically leads to you not flying. After that lovely talk, Sam and I had to go to a flight week briefing meeting…basically…these are other things that you shouldn’t do or else…and this is what you can expect to happen. About an hour later we got out and were pumped to see our flight rig in all its glory. When we got there, Isa and Caitlin were gone and everyone looked a little upset. We noticed that the rig had some MAJOR issues while shipping…it appeared we made an enemy at the UPS store. The electrical wiring was ripped out, our drums filled with lunar dust simulant had ripped off and one of the connections from the motor to the drum was pretty much destroyed…ohhh and a $380 valve is no longer in working order…its not like we needed it or anything. So I guess you could say things got off to a bumpy start…and things may or may not have been said about the UPS store that might not be suitable for children to hear. After things we starting to get back together and look nice again Sam and I said its probably best that we weren’t there during the unveiling of the rig…seeing as how we are the two who flip out the most about even the small things…the rest of the team said they had thought the same thing while unpacking everything.

Just when we got things fixed and started to feel good about ourselves the alarms started to go off...there was a thunderstorm. When there’s lightning the hangar goes into lockdown. The doors are closed and you can’t leave until all is clear. At this point, we had skipped lunch because we needed to get our stuff working and we were all pretty famished. We were not allowed to leave until 5:00…but who doesn’t love a good thunderstorm.

At 6:00 we went to dinner with all the people in the reduced gravity program. It was a lot of fun...I mean…we were real excited to finally eat! Another team joined us at our table which was nice to meet other nerds like us…well…Engineering majors…but close enough. This team’s faculty advisor talked to all of us and was really nice…I didn’t get to talk to her too much because I was farthest away from her but she seemed pretty awesome…but I had no idea how awesome this woman actually was. After the other team left, Isa turned to me and said, that lady is an Astronaut! SHE WAS JUST IN SPACE!! HOW COOL IS THAT! This woman was the alternate flyers for Christa McAuliffe he space shuttle Challenger. If she was on that mission none of us would have been able to say we had dinner with an Astronaut. Apparently, she was just on a mission and returned in the fall.
Overall it was a pretty good day. Despite our unnecessary setbacks caused by UPS it looks like everything is all good! We have already gotten 3 green check marks, pretty sure Yale only had 1 the last time I checked…just saying.

~ Erin