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Sonja Alexander

Headquarters, Washington, DC January 19, 2001


(Phone: 202/358-1761)

John Ira Petty


Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
(Phone: 281/483-5111)

RELEASE: 01-09

NASA PLANE TAKES STUDENTS AND THEIR PROJECTS "OVER THE TOP"

College students from around the country will hang on to


their hats and their lunches as they use a NASA aircraft to
conduct experiments in snatches of weightlessness.

About 48 teams of students will carry out scientific


experiments in the virtual absence of gravity beginning in
mid-February in the next round of flights on the KC-135A
aircraft near NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX.

During each two- to three-hour flight over the Gulf of Mexico,


the aircraft will fly about 30 parabolas, roller coaster-like
steep climbs and descents. Each parabola offers the students
and their experiments 25 to 30 seconds of zero-gravity as they
go "over the top."

"We're providing a significant educational milestone for most


of the students," said Donn Sickorez, Johnson education
coordinator for the program. "It gives the students a behind-
the-scenes look at science, engineering and the Johnson Space
Center."

NASA's 2001 Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities


Program is funded by the space agency and administered by the
Texas Space Grant Consortium in Austin, TX. The Reduced
Gravity Program began in 1959 to expose people and equipment
to weightlessness. The student program began about four years
ago.

This year the teams will be divided into four groups of about
12 teams each. The first group is scheduled to begin its
almost-two-week stay at Johnson Feb. 8. The fourth and final
university group winds up KC-135A activities March 30.

Community college teams will be at the center from April 5


through April 13. Subsequently, teams of Texas and New Mexico
high school students will come to the center for microgravity
flights, the first group arriving April 19 and the last
departing May 11. Additional flights for university teams are
scheduled for late summer.

The KC-135A is used to train astronauts, test hardware and


experiments destined for spaceflight, and evaluate medical
protocols that may be used in space.

During the student campaign, teams of up to four students and


their experiments fly in the plane's 60- by-10-foot cargo
area. A supervising professor and a student ground-support
team will remain at the KC-135's base at Ellington Field near
Johnson to support their flying counterparts. Professional
journalists will fly with many of the teams to report on their
activities.

Students spend months identifying, developing and testing


their experiments. NASA experts critique them for scientific
merit. Each experiment is subject to an extensive safety
review. During the first week of their two weeks in Houston,
students receive preflight training, and assemble and test
their experiments. During week two, students fly with their
experiments and conduct post-flight debriefings and reviews.

Each team also is required to develop a program for sharing


the results of its experiment with teachers, students and the
public after the flights. Teams must analyze their data,
prepare education and information materials, and submit final
post-flight reports.

Additional information is available through the NASA Reduced


Gravity Student Flight Opportunities, Texas Space Grant
Consortium, 3925 West Braker Lane, Suite 200, Austin, TX
78759. Information about requirements and deadlines for
subsequent programs is at:

http://www.tsgc.utexas.edu/floatn/

The Texas Space Grant Consortium is part of the National Space


Grant College and Fellowship Program, which is administered by
NASA.

-end-