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NASA seeks students for low gravity tests

Fancy a trip on the vomit comet?

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NASA is calling for US undergraduates to design and then take part in a series of lunar and zero gravity experiments. It wants submissions by 30 October.

NASA has run low gravity experiments for students for many years, but this time it wants students to design experiments for lunar gravity, one sixth of that on Earth.

But don't get your hopes up too high: the space agency does not propose loading the students on to the next Shuttle and sending them to the ISS. Instead, it wants volunteers for a series of experiments on the so-called vomit comet, NASA's modified McDonnell Douglas DC-9 jet aircraft.

The DC-9 aircraft can easily reproduce the feeling of being in space by performing a series of climbs and freefalls. By altering its slope of descent slightly, it can also produce short periods of lunar-equivalent gravity.

"These students will be the ones helping to design our trips back to the moon and beyond," said Donn Sickorez, university affairs officer at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston.

"By putting them through the same procedures as our space research scientists and providing them with a three-dimensional reduced gravity laboratory, we're better preparing students for these future missions."

Each proposal, NASA says, will be evaluated for technical merit and safety. The "winners" will be announced on 11 December and flown in 2007.

Fancy your chances? Point your browser here to find out more. ®

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