Toronto, ON – York University researchers floated in zero gravity last week, aboard an airplane modified to simulate weightlessness, in order to investigate why astronauts become disoriented in space, and what can be done about it.
The research, funded by the Canadian Space Agency, took place aboard the same airplane that hosted a well-publicised zero-gravity surgery earlier in the week.
The team, from Yorks Centre for Vision Research, conducted experiments on the flights from Bordeaux, France, aboard the specially designed Airbus 300. The plane flies in such a manner as to provide brief periods of microgravity, making 30 of these manoeuvres, or parabolas, during each flight.
Basically, were looking at what happens to astronauts perception of up and down when we take away the cue of gravity, says team leader Laurence Harris, professor of psychology in the universitys new Faculty of Health. They can easily become disoriented; were looking at ways to combat this.
Being in microgravity is like flying, says Michael Jenkin, a professor in Yorks Faculty of Science and Engineering who is part of the team conducting the experiments. You feel completely free of the world at least for 20 seconds or so.
The experiment was a prelude to experiments that will be conducted with astronauts on board the International Space Station next year.