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Inter-Agency Partial Gravity
Parabolic Flight Campaign 2018

In spring 2018 I was invited to take part in a follow-up experiment of the VESTAND team (see here at the end of the page). Therefore in June 2018 I was in Bordeaux for a Partial Gravity parabolic flight, my flight was on June 5th, 2018.

No weightlessness parabolas were flown in this flight, instead it focused on the following different gravity levels: 0,75 g, 0,5 g and 0,25 g. So the lowest level is a bit less than Mars gravity, but significantly more than lunar gravity. The experiments on this flight were exclusively dedicated to life sciences (one with plants and 7 others with human physiology themes).

Pictures of the type plate of the airplane on the ISS with astronaut signatures in the main room at Novespace

Everything is ready including the measurement lens in the eye

Last preparations of the team with Brandon Rasman (l) and Patrick Forbes (r), the responsibles for this experiment

The following video shows, that a 0.75 g parabola is not as impressive as a zero-g parabola (as a comparison, the angle during a 0 g parabola when entering 0 g is 47° (see picture here), and in this 0.75 g parabola it was 18°, the other gravity levels are somewhere in between that):

0.75 g parabola as seen from the window

By the way these parabolas take longer: 26 s for 0,25 g, 37 s for 0,5 g and 50 s for 0,75 g. For zero-g it is 22 s.

Me during the experiment (front)

Again with the plane after the flight

The French ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, one of our pilots

And then there was this (Dune du Pilat). All visitors of the dune probably know that people do a lot of "nonsense" there, because it just works, especially running down slow-mo like and jumping down. Since 14 years I have not done a cartwheel turn with flic flac, but here you just shake it out of your sleeve and it isn't even hard. O.k. there is a small trick, this is a slope (approx. 20° inclination). On the flat ground I couldn't do that. The other side (see the somersault video) is quite a lot steeper, something like 40°. There you can do some more stuff, but you must also take more care, but at least not much can happen with sand landings. A bit more jumping and you really fly off... And also somehow a bit like partial-g... *g*

Dune du Pyla, Flic-Flac

Haha, the dune saved my day, there I could do everything that was not allowed on the flight!

Microgravity science

German Space Agency

European Space Agency ESA

In this experiment the same test with the electrical stimulation of the balance system was performed as during the VESTAND experiment in December 2017, but only the laying down part, and only the unvoluntary eye movements caused by the stimulation were recorded with a camera. Of course we were not allowed to take medication for this flight, because the science would be screwed if the balance organ is inhibited. After half of the flight the test persons were exchanged, which means that 2 test persons could enjoy the flight while the other 2 were occupied with the experiment.


...and again a group photo of the flight team on June 5th

A small impression on how it looks like in the airplane during a 0.25 g parabola can be seen in the following video. For 0.5 and 0.75 g the difference to normal 1 g gravity gets less and is hardly perceptible at 0.75 g. Sadly it was not allowed for safety reasons to try out more than walking around a bit and do a bit of hopping with the hand on the safety rope. What would have been really interesting during 0.25 g (I would have liked trying out a flic-flac and some other gymnastic stunts).

0.25 g parabola from inside the plane

Here is a nice comparison of 0.25 g and 1.8 g (almost double gravity at the pullout of the parabola):

0.25 g

1.8 g

My summary is however: Weightlessness is nicer and more fun. But I was not alone with this rating, from other flyers as well (especially the ones that know zero-g) I heard that the parabolas were unspectacular or even boring. Nevertheless it was an interesting experience.

Dune du Pyla, Salto