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All students were glued to the briefing outlining the next few weeks, which would inexorably change their lives. NASA administrators were very cordial but clearly laid out the rules which had zero room for misconduct or variance. Donn Sickorez, the University Affairs Officer and John Yaniec, the Lead KC-135 Test Director explained to the students that NASA expected professionalism by each student personally, and in the testing of their experiments. Anyone or any project that couldn’t meet that standard, would be staying on the ground.
Besides Ellington Field, the students got to visit "Mission Control" at the Johnson Space Center and conduct their physiological training there and at the NBL (Neutral Buoyancy Lab). Part of the physiological training at the NBL was to pass the chamber test. The "Chamber" is a pressurized cabin chamber that can simulate altitude ascent and descent along with varying pressures.
We had plenty of NASA personnel both in and outside the Chamber monitoring the students, standing only seconds away with any help needed. After "flying" the chamber up to 25,000 feet, we were all asked to take off our oxygen masks to experience first hand the affects of hypoxia, which is a state of oxygen deficiency to the blood, tissues and cells. Hypoxia has different effects on different people, but will ultimately lead to unconsciousness. The TUC or "Time of Useful Consciousness" depends on the altitude. At our altitude of Flight level 25,000 feet, the TUC was 3-5 minutes. As we approached the 4-minute mark, our heroes were noticeably going down hill. Some students lips and or fingers changed to a bluish hue.

Others tried to concentrate on a worksheet that was given out to spell their names or answer other trivia. Giggling started to permeate the room as teammates started to laugh at each others actions. Felix, one of team, started to push back at his joking mates, only he was moving in slooowww motion. We were then asked to turn back on our oxygen, which was part of the test. Felix was already in a downward spiral as his head started to slump.Our NASA chamber leader immediately helped him turn it on and we all got to witness first hand what the lack of oxygen could do to you. I certainly couldn’t say much, as after 4 minutes I tried to list the presidents backwards and couldn’t get past Bush. The lesson was obvious, and we all made sure we knew where the emergency oxygen equipment was and how to put in on when we finally got on the KC-135.
When our scheduled flight day finally came, everyone was ecstatic while perhaps a bit nervous. In order for the KC-135 to create brief 30 second intervals of weightlessness, the aircraft flies parabolas climbing at a 45 degree angle and then diving back down at a 45 degree angle after reaching the crescendo of the parabola while at times reaching Mach .9 or 9/10th the speed of sound. In addition to simulating "zero-g" the KC-135 can also simulate gravity in between zero and 1g. It did this by flying one parabola at 1/6 g or lunar gravity, and 1 parabola at 1/3 g or same gravity of Mars.
Our first sensation of weightlessness released us from the chains of gravity as John Yaniec belted out, "Over the Top." It’s hard to describe the feeling as your body floats carelessly and aimlessly through the air.

It was a hot and sunny day as I approached the hangar at Ellington Field in Houston. After multiple security checks, a credential check and a complete flight physical, I was finally allowed entrance into the facility that houses NASA’s KC-135 and WB-57 zero gravity aircraft. There were student teams from several universities assembled for the initial briefing on NASA’s microgravity program. Each team had successfully submitted their experiment for the program and had been selected as a winner to actually test in zero gravity. I didn’t have to look far to find my team from Embry-Riddle University because they all had freshly shaved heads. Let’s just say their five bald heads were fairly easy to identify. The Embry-Riddle team consisted of leader Alexander Potter, Felix Chung, Matthew Link, Phillip Midler, and Martin Potter. While one could mistake their baldness for an eccentric take on team spirit, it was actually due to their experiment in which all were ready to sacrifice their hair for science. Their experiment is titled "Quantification of Intracranial Pressure Using Pulse-Phase Locked Loop Ultrasonic Technique: A Study in Gravitational Physiology." The intent of the experiment was to test the pressure and actual physical changes in the width of the human head without gravity. The goal was that their findings would help in understanding the effects that cause sickness in zero gravity environments.

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