HOUSTON — I just might defy gravity today. I'm sitting with a team of aerospace and mechanical engineering students from the University of California, San Diego, that are counting down to their first chance to fly on a ZERO-G aircraft to perform a weightless fire experiment under NASA's Microgravity University Program.
The UCSD Microgravity Team, led by senior Sam Avery, is poised to fly on a modified Boeing 727 jet designed to provide brief periods of weightlessness during a series of acrobatic parabolic flights. Today, Avery and two team members, Jack Goodwin and Daneesha Kenyon, will take the first flight shift to perform their experiment during an afternoon flight today. Other members will fly on Friday, if the weather — which has been dismal all week — holds true. Right now, it's a bright, sunny day here at Ellington Field, near NASA's Johnson Space Center.
"I think just walking out today and seeing that it was clear skies, was just the best feeling," Kenyon said. "That was about the best news that we could have gotten." There have been some slight surprises today. The team has spent some time earlier this morning finding some new tie-down straps to secure a new battery power source for their experiment and its control laptop. They worked late into the night practicing the quick series of switch throws to deploy a droplet of biofuel onto a pair of crossed wires, then ignite it with a spark. [Photos: Zero-Gravity Science at NASA's Microgravity University]
You can follow the progress of today's NASA Microgravity University Program flight via the program's Twitter feed @NASA_RGEFP and the hashtag #DefyGravity. UCSD Microgravity Team member Nico Montoya has been posting updates about the team's work at @NicoSuave9.
Here's a look at our coverage of the mission so far:
Students Test Flame in Space | Video
Students, Teachers to Hitch Ride on NASA’s 'Vomit Comet' for Weightless Science
Weightless Flames: How Fires Burn in Space
Here's a look at all 14 student and teacher teams flying with NASA on ZERO-G's G-Force One jet:
- Baldwin Wallace University / John Carroll University: The Stability of Liquid Bridges under Varying Total Body Force
- Purdue University: Water Removal in Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells
- Rice University Electromagnetic Position Sensing in Microgravity
- SUNY Buffalo: Microgravity Characterization of Zirconia Monolithic Electrokinetic Micropumps
- University of California San Diego: Fiber Supported Droplet Combustion of Bioethanol and Biobutanol
- University of Texas, El Paso: Combustion of Lunar and Martian Regolith Simulants with Magnesium
- West Virginia University: Optimization of Liquid Spray Cooling in a Variable Gravity Environment
And here are the teacher teams and their experiments:
- Team Kennedy, Hillsboro, MO: Absorbency of Liquids in Space
- Prior Lake-Savage Middle Schools, Prior Lake, MN: Behavior of Acoustic Energy in MicroGravity
- St. Joan of Arc School, Lisle, IL: Gravity's Affect on Magnets
- Evansville Day School, Evansville, IN: Tornado Fluid Flow in Microgravity
- Poinciana Elementary and Atlantic High School, Boynton Beach, FL: How Does Gravity Affect Convection?
- Einstein Fellows, Arlington, VA: Gravity's Impact on Coacervate Formation
- Riversink Elementary School, Crawfordville, FL: Wakulla Waters: A Liquid Investigation.
Email Tariq Malik at email@example.com or follow him @tariqjmalikand Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebookand Google+.