Education Technology

NASA - Weightless Wonder - Reduced Gravity Flight

Published on 12/13/2011

Activity Overview

Students examine the physics behind NASA astronauts participating in a C-9 flight simulating microgravity.


Students will use trigonometric ratios to find vertical and horizontal components of a velocity vector; derive a formula describing height of a parabola in terms of time; determine vertical and horizontal displacement of trajectory motion; and analyze data to derive a solution to a real life problem.

About the Lesson

To prepare for an upcoming mission, an astronaut participated in a C-9 flight simulating microgravity. The pilot flew out over the Gulf of Mexico, dove down to increase to a maximum speed then climbed up until the nose was at a 45 degree angle with the ground. At this point the velocity of the plane was 444 kilometers per hour (about 275 mph) and the altitude was 9,144 meters (about 30,000 ft). To go into a parabolic maneuver, the pilot then cut the thrust of the engine letting the nose of the plane continue to rise then come back down at a -45 degree angle with the ground. Ending the parabolic maneuver, the pilot throttled the engine back up and began another dive to prepare for the next parabola. The pilot completed 50 parabolas during the 2 hour flight.