Four teams of university students have been selected to conduct their experiments in a series of parabolic microgravity flights on the Airbus A300 Zero-G aircraft. The research ranges from helping restore balance in humans to understanding how planets form.
The students were chosen from 13 teams whose proposals were short-listed in September 2010.
During the final selection phase, the teams had to write detailed scientific and technical proposals and present them during a workshop at the European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in early February.
Experts from ESA’s Education Office, ESA’s Directorate of Human Spaceflight and the European Low Gravity Research Association (ELGRA) then selected the four teams to be offered flight opportunities.
The selected teams are:
Dustbrothers. Four MSc students from the Universität Duisburg-Essen in Germany will study how porous clumps of dust levitate above hot surfaces in a low-pressure environment. This underlying force might play an important role in forming planets.
FrIs–Froglegs In Space. One PhD and two MSc students from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands will investigate how electrical stimulation of the inner ear influences our perception of gravity. If successful, it could become the standard technique for testing patients with balance problems.
- Hydronauts2Fly. Four MSc students from the Technische Universität München in Germany will investigate human postures and movements in microgravity. The results could help to improve the design of manned spacecraft and equipment.
- LINVforROS. Two PhD students from the Università degli Studi di Firenze in Italy will investigate how levels of some oxygen derivatives produced by plants are altered by ‘changing’ gravity.
During the coming months, the teams will design and build their experiment racks for flight during the ESA Parabolic Flight Campaign in autumn 2012. Novespace, the operator of the Zero-G aircraft will provide assistance.
The four experiments for this year’s flights will soon be shipped to Bordeaux, France for ESA’s 54th Parabolic Flight Campaign, which will take place 16–27 May.