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Northwestern University
Rebecca Diesing on the Vomit Comet.left

Riding the Vomit Comet

A team of Northwestern students — including Rebecca Diesing ’17 (pictured above) — underwent the ultimate roller-coaster experience when they flew aboard NASA’s famed “Vomit Comet” in April to study the impact of space on bone density. 

The students were members of Northwestern’s Microgravity Team, one of 18 teams selected to participate in NASA’s Reduced Gravity Flight Opportunities Program. More than 100 teams from schools across the country applied for the privilege. 

The students traveled aboard a NASA plane that creates a weightless experience by flying parabolas at high altitudes, producing short periods of zero gravity. Prior to boarding the plane, the students were taught how to deal with the intense increase in “G force” as the aircraft ascended, and how to manage their physical reactions to being in a gravity-less state. 

Following the training, the students were given 30 different opportunities to experience zero gravity in flight. Twenty-five of those were used to perform experiments; the rest were pure fun. 

“The best moment was when you went from 2Gs to zero Gs,” Diesing said. “You went from feeling extremely heavy, as if you were twice your weight, to feeling yourself lift up and be weightless. It was very hard to resist the urge to grab onto the nearest object.”

The team also included Weinberg students Andrew Kozminski ’14, Michael Muzyka ’14 and Adam Awwad ’14, as well as Sergio Williams ‘14, Kat Dhiantravan ‘16, Malcolm Lazarow ‘16 andNewlin Weatherford ’17 from Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. 

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