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Sun, Feb 10, 2008

The World's Coolest Field Trip: NASA Selects FL School For Low-G Flight

Students Will Fly Onboard "Weightless Wonder" To Conduct Experiment

NASA announced this week the space agency selected South Plantation High School of Plantation, FL to fly a student-designed experiment aboard the agency's reduced-gravity aircraft, the "Weightless Wonder."

South Plantation will join 13 other NASA Explorer School teams selected for this unique learning experience to test science and math concepts in a weightless laboratory aboard the Weightless Wonder this month. The modified McDonnell Douglas DC-9 jetliner will fly a series of parabolic maneuvers -- steep climbs followed by sharp descents.

Each climb will produce about 30 seconds of hyper gravity, ranging from 1.8 to 2 Gs. When the DC-9 "noses over," each freefall will produce 18 to 25 seconds of weightlessness. The teams will fly about 32 parabolas.

The school's immediate mission is to finalize the concept of its experiment and work with a NASA mentor to get the experiment flight-ready. The team decided which educators will execute and accompany the experiment aboard the aircraft. They traveled to NASA's aircraft facility at Ellington Field and the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"The goal of the NASA Explorer School Program is to equip the next generation of explorers. These flights are an illustration of how NASA can connect space, math and science to classrooms on Earth," said Rob Lasalvia, program manager.

South Plantation was selected as a NASA Explorer School in 2005, giving the school an opportunity to propose a reduced-gravity experiment. The program enables schools and their communities to work with NASA in a three-year partnership to develop the nation's future science, technology, engineering and mathematics work force. There are now 200 teams, representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

With this program, NASA continues the agency's tradition of investing in the nation's education programs. It is directly tied to the agency's major education goal of attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, disciplines. To compete effectively for the minds, imaginations, and career ambitions of America's young people, NASA is focused on engaging and retaining students in STEM education programs to encourage their pursuit of educational disciplines critical to NASA's future engineering, scientific and technical missions.

FMI: http://explorerschools.nasa.gov/portal/site/nes/, http://microgravityuniversity.jsc.nasa.gov

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