By Elizabeth Myers
A team of New Mexico State University engineering students spent part of last summer floating around – in the name of science.
The NMSU Flying Aggies – Aous Manshad (seen here demonstrating the energy of a spring and transfer of momentum with a Slinky), Joe Fronczek, Fabian Melendez and team leader Brian Lusby – participated in NASA’s Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program.
The program gives undergraduate students a chance to propose, design, fabricate, fly and evaluate a microgravity experiment aboard a NASA aircraft that creates a weightless environment by flying in a parabola. As the plane starts to “nose over” the top of a parabola and descend toward Earth, the occupants experience about 25 seconds of microgravity. The maneuver is repeated 30 times on each flight.
“No roller coaster or carnival ride can compare,” Melendez said of the experience.
“It was a truly euphoric feeling floating free of all external forces,” Lusby said.
The Flying Aggies’ experiment focused on the use of centrifugal motion and flash distillation to separate chemical mixtures in zero gravity.
“The team succeeded in separating water and carbon dioxide and did obtain a vapor and liquid phase, which was our main concern,” Manshad said.
Most of the financial support for the team comes from the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium, based at NMSU. The program takes place at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.