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Physics & Astronomy

First Flight Day

Tuesday, April 5

The G-Force One microgravity aircraft took off from Ellington Field in Houston at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 5, carrying three Carthage students and their NASA mentor.

After six days at Ellington — and almost six months of preparation — the students were finally doing what they came to NASA to do: Fly their experiment in zero gravity.

Amber Bakkum, Erin Gross and Kim Schultz, along with NASA research engineer Rudy Werlink, flew aboard G-Force One, a zero-gravity aircraft.

“The 0G plane is a specially made Boeing 727,” Amber said. “The plane pulls straight up 10,000 feet, then takes a nosedive. It falls 10,000 feet,” giving the people on the plane approximately 30 seconds of simulated zero gravity.

“Then the pilots will pull back up and this is when we experience a period of hyper-gravity before going back into another 30-second 0G parabola. They fly 16 parabolas, do a 1G turnaround, and then fly another 16 parabolas. Then we land just like any other airplane, get off, hopefully don’t throw up, and go home.”

Pre-Flight Jitters

Before the flight, the three students were both excited and nervous.

“I’m just nervous to see how my body’s going to respond,” Kim said before the flight. “I really hope I don’t get motion sick. To prevent that, we were all asked to keep our heads in line with our body and make sure that our feet don’t go over our head because that really just messes up your brain.

“For the first parabola, they actually told us to just lie down on the ground, maybe just close your eyes and just let the zero gravity take a hold of you. And they said when you opened your eyes when you didn’t feel anything, you’d probably be floating up at the ceiling.”

NASA provides an anti-nausea medication to Reduced Gravity fliers that’s a combination of Scopolamine and Dexedrine. Taking the medication isn’t required, but once students hear the facts, it’s hard to say no: Historically 60 percent of first-time fliers experience significant motion sickness, according to NASA. When students follow instructions from flight personnel (read suggestions) and take the mediation, the motion sickness rate drops to 15 percent or less.

Fliers also stuff the breast pockets of their flight suits with motion sickness bags — at least two, but as many as they’d like. General rule: Take twice as many bags as you think you’ll need. And if you do end up needing one, use both hands. BOTH HANDS.

Flight 1: Successful

None of the students on Carthage’s first team of fliers ended up using their motion sickness bags, and their experiment was a success in the air.

“It was awesome,” Kim said. “When you’re going into the first parabola, you’re in 2G. All of us were laying down on the floor and you’re just ready for it. When I opened my eyes, I was just in the air. Half the time, my feet were above my head. It’s just crazy. I forgot about anything else that was going on. It was awesome.”

Added Erin Gross: “Right before we hit the 2Gs, I was just lying in a Zen state preparing for the awesomeness that was about to come. As soon as 0G hit, you’re just holding on. You’re just floating through the air. Everybody has a huge grin on their faces.”

“It was fantastic,” Kim said. “It’s indescribable, really. I can understand everybody’s excitement about this. I loved it. When they landed, I wanted them to take it right back up again and just do it all day.”

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2017), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • Scheduled to open in fall 2018, a new residential tower will offer suite-style housing and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about The Tower

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    • 96% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit Career Services.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. 95% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Computer science students watch Prof. Mark Mahoney’s recorded lecturers in their free time, so he can nearby “when they do their real learning,” he says. He has company: Physics professor Brant Carlson’s quantum mechanics video playlist has been viewed more than 170,000 times. 

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • As a freshman in the highly selective Honors Program, learn how to gain expertise in anything from music to forest ecology. After that, tackle a contemporary social, economic, or political problem. If you like, you can live on an Honors-only floor of a Carthage residence hall. 

    • In 2016 and 2017, Carthage was named a top producer of Fulbright Scholars by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our athletic and recreation center, student union, computer labs, audiovisual production suite, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 10 years. Our new science center caps it off.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to athletic training, neuroscience to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • More than 90 percent of our students receive financial aid, a hefty chunk of which is scholarships and grants — including $1.25 million annually from the Presidential Scholarship Competition and numerous Merit Scholarships. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” says biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 30 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from 75% tuition up to full tuition, room, and board. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 120 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Chemistry Club, to Frisbee and Latin Belly Dancing. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • Imagine presenting your original research at an international conference — as an undergraduate. Carthage is dedicated to undergraduate research. Learn more about current opportunities.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 11 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …

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