Posted: May 24, 2011
A NASA aircraft making steep climbs followed by free falls over the Gulf of Mexico last spring served as a weightless laboratory for a handful of Ohio State College of Engineering students conducting an experiment on materials flammability.
David Bajek (Welding), Alex Stilwell (Mechanical), Stuart Benton (Aeronautical), Ben Grimm (Mechanical), and Caitlin Benton (Integrated Systems) participated in NASA’s Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program, which provides teams of undergraduate students from across the nation with the opportunity to propose, design, build, fly and evaluate a reduced gravity experiment. The team was selected from over 70 proposals based on scientific merit and education outreach potential.
The team conducted their experiment aboard NASA’s “Weightless Wonder,” a microgravity aircraft that can produce periods of weightlessness lasting 18 to 25 seconds at a time by flying a series of about 30 parabolas—a steep climb followed by a free fall. The aircraft took off from NASA Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field in Houston.
The team’s experiment, Correlation of 1-g Aerospace Materials Flammability Data with Data in Reduced and Microgravity Environments, took place last spring. Their experiment successfully recorded material flammability propagation rates as they relate to oxygen content and level of gravity. The data will enable the team to characterize the materials flammability susceptibility on the lunar surface.
“Experiencing weightlessness is something that very few people get to experience in their lifetime, and having this opportunity to do this and work with NASA to do our part in helping the space program, as well as furthering scientific interests in young students is something unique and something that all of us will remember,” says David, Team Lead and a fourth-year Welding Engineer.
Last summer the team issued a final report to NASA that analyzed the experiment’s effectiveness and scientific findings while offering conclusions drawn from the results.