I was part of a science team that tested different effects of weightlessness. To achieve a weightless environment, we flew with other teams on NASA’s KC-135,which is a plane designed for such investigations.
Part of our pre-flight training was a lecture on how to best physically adapt to the continues cycle of G forces from 0G to 2G to 0G and so on. I was following the instructions, which included holding to straps on the floor so that I did not float around at 0G. One of my team members is shown with her leg under one of the floor straps.
While holding to the strap we were to focus our eyes on a spot on the wall of the plane. This was to help keep us from being nauseated. These two actions were much harder than I imagined. First, I could hold to the straps with my hands or put my leg under it but that didn’t keep my whole body from floating. While doing this I was trying to stare at a spot on the wall. My wiggling in an effort to do all this resulted in a major problem.
My job on the team was to record the events by taking photographs. I had several cameras hanging around my neck on straps. In fact from the photo shown I had all kind of stuff hanging around my neck and stuffed in my pockets. I lost my focus on the wall because Sir Issac Newton was absolutely correct. His first law of motion states that objects inertia. The more massive the object the greater their inertia. Because of inertia, when set in motion, objects a 0G will continue to move. I wish I had a video of the event. It occurred in less than 30 seconds because that is the length of time that we experienced 0G. It seemed like forever, but that was due to my panic. But you would panic too if you had cords twisting around your neck. Yes, the camera cords were choking me and I lost my focus. This was the beginning of my observations of how changes in G forces affect ones body.
I was so prepared–I was holding to the strap and had picked out a spot on the wall. At 0G I was struggling to keep my body against the floor of the plane. The cameras were floating in front of me and I must have hit them because they started spinning. Since the cameras were on a cord around my neck, in seconds the cord was choking me. My past didn’t flash in front of my eyes, but an image of me floating through the plane being choked by the spinning cameras did. I held to the floor strap with one hand and stuck the other hand under the twisting cord so it could not further tighten around my neck. As far as I know I never made a sound. No cry for help! But the flight crew was observing every person on board. Two of them rescued me. They removed the camera cords from my neck but by this time I had lost my focus. Being prepared, I had wet paper towels in one of the many pockets in my flight suit. I felt so sick and was trying to calm my stomach, but it was to no avail. Thankfully we all had barf bags stuck in every pocket. When my barf bag came out of my pocket, the flight crew was again quick to help me to the back of the plane where I could be secured with a seat belt. Walking at 2G was an awesome experience. It was like a dream where my feet felt too heavy to lift.
I never stopped barfing until we landed. I was grateful that I had the energy to walk off the plane. On a previous flight, a lady had to be removed on a stretcher.At least I managed to observe others and even do some experimenting myself–this was between my vomiting which occured at 0G as well as at 2G. My body was definitely telling me that I was not meant to be an astronaut.
For information about how apparent weightlessness is achieved in an airplane, see WEIGHTLESS.