Oddest thing: It's almost like being in love

2011-07-13T00:00:00Z Oddest thing: It's almost like being in loveVictoria Blute For The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Elton John sang "Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids," but let's face it: He probably never experienced reduced gravity.

Tuesday, I felt the equivalent of Mars' gravity firsthand, alongside lunar gravity and, well, no gravity at all, when I rode along with a group of University of Arizona students in Houston for an elite NASA program. And it may have been just three 30-second glimpses into Mars, but it seems like it would be a fun place to go.

Trying to explain microgravity is like trying to explain the odd euphoria of falling in love. Your heart is in your ears, your stomach does flips and, sometimes, you feel like you're floating. In this case, you really are.

And you want more.

It's like the alley-oop of a roller coaster nosing over the top of the rails and every dream about flying you had as a child.

But let's get one thing straight: I'm terrified of vomit, be it mine or yours, and it was my biggest concern after I heard I'd be taking a ride on the gravity-defying 727. Maybe it was that one time my sister accidentally threw up on me as a kid, but I've just never handled it well. But in the name of journalism, I set my fear aside and I said I'd do it.

Between numerous briefings, lectures and medication, NASA officials did everything in their power to make sure we'd have an enjoyable trip. It may be a wild experience, but they know good and well that the trip is research-based, and sick researchers are useless.

And sure enough - my trip was zero percent "Vomit Comet," and 100 percent "Weightless Wonder."

As soon as we hit the first three parabolas - and figured out that right side up is now upside down - I was hooked. Humans consistently find ways to adapt, and this was no different.

The intense combination of being pressed against the aircraft floor at 2.3 Gs followed by 30 seconds of complete weightlessness seemed oddly natural by parabola number four. Over time, I couldn't feel the movement of the plane as it completed parabolas, leaving only a sensation someone was flicking the microgravity switch on and off.

As a non-researcher, I could watch flabbergasted student faces with floating bodies and objects moving unaided through space. An aircraft full of adults quickly became a group of laughing, grinning, excited children.

Even the flight crew - who have logged thousands of parabolas - still offered up grins when gravity took a vacation. NASA mentor Christopher Johnson has flown six times and said it's never been boring.

However, students were mindful of completing their research, even in such different conditions. When done, I caught sight of a few rounds of zero-gravity catch, and, for the first time, I was able to do push-ups.

A lot of them.

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