Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers fly away from gravity on the 35th ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign

15.10.2003


Airbus A300 for parabolic flights


Research in 0g


Zero-G flying is just like throwing a football through the air, explains test pilot Captain Gilles Le Barzic as he briefs an audience about to leave gravity behind: "Except instead of a ball we have an aircraft."

Le Barzic is one of three expert pilots on ESA’s A-300 ’Zero-G’ Airbus, billed by its operator Novespace as ’the plane that removes gravity’. The aircraft has been specially strengthened to fly parabolic arcs enabling researchers to carry out experiments in weightlessness without going into space.

Last week saw the start of ESA’s 35th Parabolic Flight Campaign. Twelve teams from seven European countries and Canada and Russia gathered at Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport, in France, to prepare and fit their experiments inside the modified white-padded Airbus fuselage. On 14 October 2003, the A-300 lifts off for the first of three consecutive flight days.



Flying 31 parabolas each two-and-a-half-hour flight provides experimenters with about 10 minutes of weightlessness per day. Rockets and space flights provide much longer and continuous weightlessness, but only on parabolic flights can experimenters ride alongside their experiments.

The experiments on board are very diverse. They range from assessing how bubbles form in artificial blood and testing an exercise machine designed for astronauts to studying the behaviour of so-called ’complex plasmas’ found in cometary tails and judging the effectiveness of weightlessness surgery. The one common factor in the experiments is their need for weightlessness.

Bubbles in blood

How do bubbles form in simulated human blood? A Belgian group from the University of Brussels is linking up with investigators from the Universities of Thessaloniki and Thessaly in Greece to find out. "We use a tiny quarter-millimetre heater to produce the bubbles in the liquid," explains Professor Thodoris Karapantsios of the University of Thessaloniki. "It’s the same thing when bubbles form in the blood of divers experiencing the ’bends’, or a spacewalking astronaut suffers an explosive decompression. Gravity and convection currents do not distort these bubbles. They stay spherical and keep stable which makes them easier to study."

Two unusual passengers on this week’s flights are a pair of rats named Ariane and Apollo. However, they will not be aware of their free-fall. A medical team from the University of Bordeaux will perform some simple surgery on the anaesthetised rats. In this way, the team intends to investigate the feasibility of carrying out operations in space. This is something that astronauts may one day need to know how to do for long-term manned missions.

Testing for space

Several experiments are testing hardware destined for the International Space Station (ISS). One will test the concept of the flywheel-based Resistive Exercise Device. Developed by ESA with the Karolinska Institute, from Stockholm, Sweden, this invention has been specially designed to improve existing astronaut fitness machines. Astronauts rely on fitness machines to stave off the wasting effects of long-term weightlessness.

There are also two experiments flown by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics – the latter in collaboration with the Moscow Institute for High Energy Density. These experiments evaluate experimental apparatus for the study for complex plasmas on ISS, entitled PK-3 and PK-4. An earlier, more basic version of the equipment is already on board the ISS and yielding results.

Complex plasmas are electrically charged gases together with dust particles that exhibit unusual behaviour. For example, during weightlessness, lattice-works of statically charged particles form, called ’plasma crystals’. Complex plasmas occur in interstellar dust clouds, proto-planetary clouds, comet tails, and planetary rings. Understanding them better might help reduce costly dust contamination in the manufacture of plasma-etched silicon circuits, here on Earth.

Results on show

Visitors to Belgium’s Euro Space Centre in Redu will soon be able to see some results from this parabolic flight for themselves. Students from the Centre’s Space Camp are performing a variety of experiments designed to clearly show the effects of weightlessness on everyday objects.

"We’re recording the results on ESA 3D cameras," says Centre teacher Pierre-Emmanuel Paulis. "We will put them on display at the Centre as soon as possible, and use them to teach young children about space." ESA also organises parabolic flight campaigns for students. Do you have a promising idea for a weightlessness experiment? It could be your ticket to ride, so send your application for next year’s 7th Student Parabolic Flight Campaign before 12 January 2004.

Dieter Isakeit | ESA
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/export/esaHS/SEMIUH1P4HD_index_0.html

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs
07.11.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies
20.10.2017 | Naval Research Laboratory

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Corporate coworking as a driver of innovation

22.11.2017 | Business and Finance

PPPL scientists deliver new high-resolution diagnostic to national laser facility

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>