As we previously reported he would, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking got a taste of weightlessness yesterday courtesy of a Zero Gravity Corporation modified 727. According to MSNBC.com, "the jet carrying Hawking, a handful of his physicians and nurses, and dozens of others first flew up to 24,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean off Florida. Nurses lifted Hawking and carried him to the front of the jet, where they placed him on his back atop a special foam pillow." The 727 did eight parabolic profiles.
I had a chance for a ride in NASA's "Vomit Comit," a modified 707, a few years back. It was an interesting experience. On this particular flight, the airplane flew 40 parabolas (50 degrees nose up to 30 degrees nose down) that afforded just less than 30 seconds of zero G each. As my host, a Navy SEAL and mission specialist, predicted, the engineers and assorted NASA staffers throughout the padded fuselage started out very enthusiasically, spinning each other and laughing. But by the tenth parabola, they were all airsick. By the fortieth they would have given their firstborns to get off that damn jet. But once we got back on the ground all agreed the experience was worth the nausea - sort of like a winging ceremony used to be back in the day.