Vomit Comet Blog: Monday, May 8, 2006

posted by Vinaya

Yay! Today was the day. I got my first up-close look at the C-9. It was pretty cool. We entered from the rear stairs--hidden in the tailcone. There are about 20 seats in the back of the plane and the rest is empty...designed that way, of course, for experiments and the room needed to experience weightlessness.

Padding covers the floor and ceiling of the plane and the walls, too. The windows can be covered and most of them are. This is for two reasons. The main reason is that sometimes, the light coming in from the windows--be it ambient light or sunlight--can ruin test data. The other reason is that looking outside can sometimes make you sick. Until you're used to what the plane is doing, it's better not to look outside. It may cause you to be sick. Anyway, on with our day...

The Greendale Team answers questions during TRR.

The Greendale Team answers questions during TRR.

The TRR committee: NASA flight surgeon, pilots, RGO directors and crew members

The TRR committee: NASA flight surgeon, pilots, RGO directors and crew members

NASA loves velcro

NASA loves velcro

David Levy

David Levy

After our morning briefing (in which we reviewed the day's schedule and a slight delay in our take-off time tomorrow), each of the teams had to prepare for TRR--the Test Readiness Review. The TRR is performed by the flight surgeon, the pilots, reduced gravity office personnel and other plane crew. The crew conducts the TRR to make sure that all experiments are ready to fly. They ensure that all equipment is secure and that the experiments are safe to fly. The TRR reviewers ask the teams questions to make sure that the teams know what they're supposed to be doing, and of course, to make sure that the experiments will be safe when they're flying. With a few slight modifications to some of the experiments, just for added safety, all the teams passed the TRR. Even though only three teams will be flying per group, ALL six of the teams had to prepare and pass the TRR before flying.

The load-in began after lunch. The hangar was hot and VERY humid today...but that's Houston weather, so they tell us. It seemed to most that the theme of the day was "hurry up and wait." And wait we did, but we finally got everything loaded.

There are two other funded research projects flying on our flight. They were loaded on the plane first. Then our three teams that are flying on Tuesday and Wednesday got to load their experiments on-board. Most the experiments were put on a forklift and loaded through the cargo door of the plane. Space assigned and prepared, our teams loaded their experiments on-board.

Lots of duct tape and velcro were used to secure items to the plane. (T high humidity in Houston caused a few problems for some of the teams. The duct tape just didn't want to stick.) NASA has its own special kind of duct tape, which doesn't leave a sticky residue behind. It's not like traditional duct tape, either. It's green, not silver and it a little wider.

Everything that goes onto the plane has to have the ability to be secured during the flight. We wouldn't want stuff floating around the cabin during weightlessness , only to hit someone up-side the head when we come out of freefall. So the duct tape goes down and then velcro is attached to the duct tape. Anything that has the potential of floating away has velcro attached so that it can be "stuck down" when needed.

After load-in, we had a motion sickness briefing. NASA has prepared a very cheesy video which demonstrates ways to reduce the occurrence of motion sickness. It's hokey, but it gets the point across: Don't make sudden movements with your head, keeping your head "in-line" with your body; the best position on the plane is lying on your back looking up. Also getting a good night's rest, avoiding alcohol 24 hours before the flight, and--surprisingly--eating a good breakfast on the day of your flight, also reduce the chances of motion sickness. (NASA flight surgeon issued anti-nausea medication is also available.)

Crew members then demonstrated how to use the government-issued plastic airsick bags. Use both hands, they say, and make sure that the bag only as one opening. Floating vomit is never, ever a good thing.

Motion sickness briefing out of the way, we got to the fun part of the day. We were each issued our very own flight suit. Sadly, I don't get to keep it...but I don't I look cool?

This evening, each of the teams got a real treat. Space Center Houston--the official visitors center of the Johnson Space Center--opened their doors to our teams for an after-hours event. Local school children, interested JSC employees and our teams got the opportunity to hear about the discovery of the Shoemaker-Levy comet. David Levy gave a lecture about the discovery of the comet, his interest in astronomy and where astronomy is going in the future. Dr. Levy had some very cool pictures that he had taken from his own "comet hunter" days. A very interesting lecture.

After the talk, we had "Dinner with the Stars." In care you're wondering, it was nothing like any of the recent reality-television shows with similar names. No B-list celebrities for us. We had dinner with actual stars in the Space Center Houston's Starship Gallery. Stars twinkled from the ceiling and illuminated the Apollo 17 module, SpaceLab and early space capsules from the Mercury program. Our teams got to wander around the gallery after dinner. The Lunar Vault was particularly interesting. We all got to touch a moon rock (one of only three on display in the United States--the other two are at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Air and Space Museum in Washington. I've touched two, now I only have one more to go. Next time I'm in Florida...hmm...).

The teams really enjoyed our private showing at Space Center. It was real treat. Our special thanks for Space Center Houston for their hospitality.

Well, it's been a long day and I've got that 7:15 a.m. briefing tomorrow. So I'm headed to bed. Must get my rest and keep hydrated after all, because...

Time until my flight: T-minus 1 day, 10 hours, 19 minutes...and counting.

C-9 Before load-in
C-9 Before load-in

 C-9 During load-in
C-9 During load-in

C-9 Flight deck
C-9 Flight deck

 Retired T-38s on display outside Space Center Houston
Retired T-38s on display outside Space Center Houston

 I feel the need...I feel the need for speed. (I couldn't resist...sorry. That's my flight suit, by the way.)
I feel the need...I feel the need for speed. (I couldn't resist...sorry. That's my flight suit, by the way.)

Moon Rock
Moon Rock