From time to time I find some planned OMG moments in my diary in among the unscheduled ones. This short post is about my most recent one…
Colleagues and I had been here before in 2014, and since most (though not all) of us liked it, we decided to have another go…
There are several companies in the world that offer flights on which you can have a taste of what it’s like being in a spaceship – up in space – in which, as we all know, there’s zero gravity. The ones in Russia, provided by Roscosmos, take place in an Il-76; those in America – in a Boeing, and those in Europe – an Airbus, naturally. In terms of sizes of the compartments in which you float around, they’re all about the same. The bonus with Roscosmos is it’s cheaper!
How exactly we booked ourselves in at Roscosmos I don’t know. Thank you, however, to he who sorted it. And btw, if you fancy a pop yourself – knock yourself out.
So, after a light breakfast of semolina, we undergo a micro-medical: blood, blood pressure, brain (psychotherapist!), and a few other things I can’t quite recall. All perfectly perfunctory and quick. Next, at 8am, we gather at the front gates of Star City. A bit later a bus comes to pick us up and take us inside the complex. Next up: weightlessness briefing. 9am: another pre-flight doctor. 11am: Chkalovsky Airport. We climb some steep steps up to a specially equipped Ilyushin (Il-76MDK). Here’s your last chance to chicken out of the mission! Minutes later, we’re inside, and the doors close behind us. We don parachutes (!), and off we fly!…
We sit and wait – and wave and take selfies – in anticipation for what’s next…
It only takes around 15 minutes to get to the spot where the weightlessness kicks in – somewhere up above Rostov.
Now, what was I saying? Ah yes… wait, what’s happ… woooooaaaaaahhhhhheeeeeeyyyyyyyyyy! (It’s started:)
The plane does 10 ‘hill climbs’ (and descents). At an altitude of around 6km it accelerates, then climbs at a 45° angle, then it does a long (ballistic?) arc, ‘switches on the weightlessness’, reaches a ceiling at around 8.5-9km up, flies down, and when the angle again reaches 45° (this time going down), it ‘switches off the weightlessness’ and levels out. Much like a Gaussian distribution curve.
The camera also gets disorientated. It, too, doesn’t know which way’s up and which is down:
So what’s it feel like?
At first, at the start of the buildup of speed, the plane kind of slumps, much like when there’s a spot of turbulence (but for longer). It’s really weird – you can jump around or throw something, and everything happens in slow motion.
The plane starts to bank and for 15-20 seconds 2g kicks in. It’s a bit tricky. Your arms and legs – in fact, whole body – feels as if it weighs twice as much as normal. A little unnerving. Best not try walk around at this stage and just lie down instead.
Next up, loudspeakers announce: ‘Attention, weightlessness mode’, ceiling lights come on, and woooaahhhh – 25 seconds of practically complete weightlessness. Hurray!
A quick breather…
…And we’re off again!
… And again and again – ten times. With each cycle we turn a little greener ).
The instructors told us how around 20% of visitors throw up during weightlessness! Well, the same went for 20% of us lot! Eek. No pics of that ).
And that was that. 10 cycles completed. Phew!
Like I’ve said, this was my second time. I wrote how I was ecstatic the first time. This time I tried to describe things a little more reservedly and composedly. Not sure why. Whatever, both times were equally amazing. And I deem a weightlessness trip, as you’ll probably guess, simply must-do for everyone!
// Btw, this was my 54th flight this year. Not bad going…
This video was shot in a similar Ilyushin:
And here’s how they did it: