Friday, February 15, 2008

Nasa's Vomit Comet

Author: David Craig

September 29, 2005

The Vomit Comet is the nickname for Nasa's C-9 airplane used to simulate weightlessness for astronaut training. The C-9 replaced two KC-135's previously used for this function. The Vomit Comet engages in a flight lasting almost three hours entailing 30-40 parabolic loops in which gravity varies from earth's gravitational pull to near weightlessness for a period of 25 seconds. The aircraft flies horizontally for a period of time only to rise in a steep climb followed by the 25 second freefall.

The Vomit Comet received its name from the percentage of its passengers who throw up on its flights. According to John Yaniec, lead test director for NASA's Reduced Gravity Program, roughly one third of its passengers vomit, one third get sick but don't vomit, and the rest don't get sick at all. According to Yaniec, most airsickness is caused by anxiety over the upcoming flight.

The Vomit Comet is used to train future astronauts as well as to carry out microgravity experiments. Many high school and college science experiments have been carried out over the years on the Vomit Comet. One of the original KC-135 Vomit Comets was used to film scenes of the 1995 movie Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks.

About the author: M.S. Physics - University of Minnesota B.S. Computer Science - University of Oregon Owner of Space Stuff - Home of Nasa and General Astronomy Information

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