Student teams to ride NASA’s ‘vomit comet’

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By Neven Jones

Two research teams from this college’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program were accepted to the NASA Microgravity Project at the same time, Dr. Dan G. Dimitriu, engineering coordinator, said.

The teams are scheduled to go to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to test their projects in simulated microgravity Nov. 8-15. They were scheduled to go Nov. 1-9, but the partial government shutdown Oct. 1-17 delayed the projects.

NASA is still working with the contractor who supplies the planes so the flight dates are not yet solidified, Ashle Harris, public affairs specialist at NASA Johnson Space Center, said.

The groups are to report to Ellington Field in Houston Nov. 8, Jerry O’Connor, physics, engineering and architecture chair, said.

O’Connor and Dimitriu, who each oversee a team, will accompany the students and be alternate fliers, O’Connor said.

Dimitriu’s team’s craft will follow a parabolic arc over the Gulf of Mexico to achieve near weightlessness. The students will experience 2g’s, or twice their body weight as they fly. Half of the team will fly while the other half is ground support and then they will switch, Dimitriu said.

The students need one day of training at NASA before riding the “vomit comet,” Dimitriu said.

The two groups presented their projects, along with three other groups Sept. 17 in the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement Center.

Dimitriu’s group researched atmospheric entry with one-axis control. The group consisted of Erica Zeelenberg, engineering and mathematics sophomore and engineering sophomores Jaysiel Garcia, Marisol Ordaz, Jacob Prado and Alexander Rivera.

The second group researched water bending, vibration-induced sine waves in a fluid system. The team consisted of mathematics sophomore Thaddeus Brickley, and engineering sophomores Darcy Stephens, Emma Garcia, Vernon Lymus, and Sarah Ihle.

Dimitriu declined to give The Ranger information on the status of the students’ progress.

For more information, call 210-486-0085.


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