Scientistswho want to conduct research on Mars, the moon, and in space don't have totravel that far anymore.
Acommercial company is offering researchers a chance to fly in a plane that simulatesweightless and low-gravity environments like the moon, Mars, and Earth-orbit.
ZeroGravity Corporation (ZERO-G) announced the new program, known as ZERO-GWeightless Lab, on Thursday. The company already flies special airplanes inparabolic arcs to simulate microgravity experiences for paying passengers. Nowthey are offering Martian, lunar, and hyper gravity environments as well. TheZERO-G Weightless Lab is open to academic, corporate and government agencycustomers.
Inthe past, the company has flown adventure-seekers including StephenHawking, and even a full wedding party on weightless runs.
EricAnderson, President and CEO of Space Adventures/ZERO-G said in a statement,"The ZERO-G Weightless Lab provides open access for commercial andgovernment entities to conduct research in a reduced gravity environment thatis not only affordable, but available today. The microgravity laboratory iscompletely operational; no test flights, development effort, or outsideinvestment is required."
TheZERO-G Weightless Lab offers clients the opportunity to charter a section ofthe plane, rather than the entire plane, for the two-day program. The labprogram includes a total of 25 parabolas, storage space and a containment unitfor smaller research projects.
RichardGarriott, a space tourist who brokered his 2008 trip aboard a Russian Soyuzspacecraft through Space Adventures, endorsed the new program.
"TheZERO-G Weightless Lab is a great first-step in space-based research," hesaid.
Duringhis trip, Garriott traveled to the International Space Station and conductedresearch to test the effects of the weightless environment on things likeprotein crystals.
"Mymost prized on-orbit activity was the protein crystallization project," hesaid. "The results were just as we predicted and my team has flown anotherspecimen to the ISS since my flight."
Researchproposals will be reviewed by ZERO-G'sresearch staff and its airline partner, Amerijet International Cargo. TheFederal Aviation Administration must issue approvals for the experiments,including a Test Readiness Review.
PastZERO-G client projects have included studies in biomedical and pharmaceuticalresearch, fluid and fundamental physics, materials science, aerospaceengineering, space exploration hardware and human space habitation.
TwoZERO-G Weightless Lab flights have already been scheduled for July in Ft.Lauderdale, Fla. and September in Memphis,Tenn.
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