Monday, April 4
So you’re less than 20 hours away from your first zero-gravity flight on a plane that once upon a time earned the nickname “Vomit Comet.” What do you want to know?
How to stay upright.
How to stay calm.
How to keep working.
And how to keep from throwing up all over your teammates, your experiment and anyone else on the plane.
“Anything that you do up there that’s distracting you from your science is not going to be helpful,” said lead reduced gravity flight test director Dominic Del Rosso, as he kicked off the Anti-Motion Sickness Briefing Monday afternoon. “But the reputation is a lot worse than reality. About 10 percent of first-time flyers get sick.”
Go easy, take your meds
NASA takes precautions to keep the students feeling well during the flight. The Anti-Motion Sickness Briefing provided tips for minimizing motion sickness, and NASA provides anti-nausea medications to all flyers if desired.
“We want you to go into your very first parabola and be able to get to work and operate the hardware that you designed and developed,” Del Rosso said.
The Anti-Motion Sickness briefing included a long list of tips:
- “Do everything up there slowly. Go in easy.”
- “Keep your head facing the same direction as the rest of your body.”
- “Wear lighter clothes under your flight suit so you don’t overheat.”
- “Don’t go wildly cart-wheeling through the cabin.”
- “Have something in your stomach; eat about two hours before you get on the plane.”
- “Get plenty of rest the night before.”
- “Hold on to something 100 percent of the time — at least with your fingertips to keep you in the neighborhood.”
- “Don’t panic, swim, kick or flail; that’s not effective at all.”
Brain gets confused
The goal is to control the sensory inputs your brain receives from your inner ear, neck or eyes. So lay down during 2G, keep your head facing the same direction as your body, and keep your feet up and your head down.
“Your brain is much less confused if you float with your feet down and your head up,” Del Rosso said. “It is very disconcerting to have floors and ceiling suddenly become the left and right walls.”
Use the first parabola to get yourself accustomed to the feeling of 2G (feeling like “you’ve got another you on top of you,” Stephanie Finnvik described) and 0G (“the best feeling in the world.”)
Let the airplane do the work
Del Rosso’s advice: “Melt into the wall” during 2G. “Let the airplane do the work. It’s going to happen with or without you.” Then, don’t try to float. You don’t need to. “Sit, and sit, and sit, until you float up off the deck,” he said.
What about breakfast? Stick to your regular routines as closely as you can, he said. “Some people will say, ‘I’m not going to eat for two days so I don’t throw up.’ Well, if you like dry-heaving, awesome.”
If you do feel sick, do what you need to do and move on, he said. Every flyer will board the plane with at least two motion sickness bags tucked into the breast pockets of their flight suit.
Finally, let the NASA test directors on the flight assist you — even if it feels like you’ve got complete control over where you are. “When you’re floating in the air and someone comes to get you, and one of us is upside down, it’s probably you,” he said.