NASA Giving Away Zero-Gravity Flights

Want a free ride on the vomit comet? Talk to NASA.

The space agency is giving away spots on zero-gravity flights to anyone who's got a great idea or potential product for spaceflight but can't afford free-fall testing.

Through its Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology Development and Training (FAST) program, NASA is offering flight time to small businesses, individuals, universities and research institutions developing technologies "that have potential use in future agency projects" in orbit or on missions to the moon and Mars.

Past experiments tested under the program included pneumatic drilling under lunar gravity, as well as nanofluid-coolant and virtual-sensor effectiveness under various gravities.

All those were done by companies already under contract to NASA, but last month the space agency decided to open up the program to all worthy comers.

The flights will be conducted this coming summer out of Ellington Field in Houston, though a facility in Cleveland may be added, and will last about 2 hours with an estimated 50 parabolic loops.

"The aircraft can provide about 25 seconds of near-zero-gravity conditions during each parabolic maneuver," states the project Web page. "It can provide variable gravity levels between zero and one, including 0.16 g for lunar conditions and 0.38 g for Mars conditions. An increased gravity level of up to 1.8 g can be provided for up to one minute."

Only the flight time and aircraft space is being given away. Participants pay for everything else, including transport, lodging, storage, experiment enclosures -- and presumably the Dramamine they're going to need as the aircraft swings wildly up and down.

The deadline for applications is March 20, with the flights to take place in August.

• Click here for information on how to apply.

• Click here for more about the FAST program.

• Click here for the NASA press release.

• Click here to visit's Space Center.