The ZERO-G Airplane

Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions:

About Mission: AstroAccess

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Do you really think disabled people can be astronauts?
Absolutely! In fact, we know they will be! Whether disability comes from an accident or illness in space or from intentional inclusion of disabled people at the start of a mission, all kinds of human beings, disabled and otherwise will be working and living in space in the next century. The best way to ensure success as humanity moves outward, is to start early, do the research we need to do, and keep our minds as open as we can to all possibilities.
What kinds of disabilities are included?
Anyone, with any disability, may apply for a seat on our first mission. The selection process will obviously be quite competitive, but all applications are welcome. For our first mission, we will select a diverse crew with diverse disabilities, with the goal of addressing basic questions about what disabled people need to become full crew members of future space missions. The nature of these research questions will be the main driving force behind the selection process.
What if I don't have a research idea?
This is fine. We are interested in adventuring with a diverse, passionate, vibrant, playful and dedicated crew. We are also interested in nailing down a few very basic things about how disabled people will work in microgravity. If you are chosen, and you do not have a plan, we will provide you with one. Even if you do have an idea, we may ask that you set that aside in favor of a task that fits with what other people will be doing on the flight.
Is this the only flight?
We certainly hope it is not! At this time we are only accepting applicants for one flight, taking place October 17, 2021, but our long term goal is to crew several ZERO-G parabolic flights, move onward to suborbital spaceflights, and eventually place a disabled astronaut into Earth orbit. And beyond.
Are there age limitations?
For our initial flight, our crew must all be 18 years or older by the time of application. There is no upper age limit.
Are there residency restrictions?
At this time, we are only able to recruit crew members who live in the United States.
Is this safe for me?
Any kind of activity of this nature has inherent risks, but the simple presence of a disability does not necessarily make a ZERO-G flight more dangerous. ZERO-G has a set of safety and health regulations which we will follow. There are some circumstances, such as the presence of a heart condition, that make it unsafe for some people to fly. You, your doctor, our medical professionals and ZERO-G will collaborate to make everyone as safe as we can. In general, if you are healthy enough to ride a roller coaster, you are probably able to fly. The most important thing is the safety of our crew, however, and we will not put you on the crew if there are significant concerns about your body's ability to tolerate zero G or the 2 G acceleration phases between the zero G portions.

What about COVID-19? Do I need to be vaccinated to participate?

The health and safety of our crew is our highest priority. To help prevent the possible spread of disease during the pandemic, ZERO-G is conducting rapid COVID-19 tests of participants before each flight. Even with this measure in place for the flight, we want to keep everyone as safe as possible. We require all participants to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to participating in any of our activities.

Isn't this project impractical given the real needs of disabled people on Earth today?
It is certainly true that disabled people face myriad barriers on Earth even in the 21st century, and we are proud to be partnering with organizations who are fiercely dedicated to the welfare and dignity of all disabled people. To make the world better, we need all kinds of people doing all kinds of work, following their dreams and talent to the place where they can do some good. Since outer space and access to the STEM fields are our passion, this is where we are working.
Are there disabled people on the Mission: AstroAccess planning committee?

Yes! As with any project that aims to advance disability inclusion, we believe members of the disability community, and their unique perspectives and experiences, must be included in every step of the planning process.

What kind of people are you looking for?

We are looking for you if you are a team player, are adventurous, have a strong positive attitude about disability, and are willing to float upside down to push back the barriers that separate disabled people from full access to everything: including space.

How is this related to SciAccess?

SciAccess is an international organization founded in 2018 in order to promote disability inclusion in STEM. It began as an annual conference and has since expanded into numerous global programs, including Mission: AstroAccess. While Mission: AstroAccess falls under the umbrella of SciAccess programs, it is supported and made possible by a vast network of exceptional partner organizations and nonprofits, featured at the bottom of our Home Page

Frequently Asked Questions:

About the Flight

When is the Flight and where does it leave from?

We are scheduled to fly on October 17, 2021. We will be flying from Long Beach, California.

What happens aboard the flight?

The Zero Gravity Corporation's B-727 aircraft (named G FORCE ONE) takes off like any other airplane. G-FORCE ONE flies in FAA-designated airspace blocks approximately 100 miles long and ten miles wide (likely over the Pacific on our flight). The process starts with the aircraft flying level with the horizon at an altitude of 24,000 feet. Participants will move from their seats to padded 'floating area' in the front of the aircraft cabin. Once everyone is ready, the fun begins! The pilots gradually increase the angle of the aircraft to about 45° relative to the horizon until reaching an altitude of 32,000 feet. During this phase, passengers feel the pull of 1.8 Gs. Next, the plane pushes over the top of the parabolic arc and the zero-gravity phase begins. For the next 20-30 seconds, everything in the plane is weightless. Finally, the plane gently pulls out of the maneuver, allowing flyers to gradually return to the floor of the aircraft. The maneuver is typically flown 15 times over the course of the flight, each taking about ten miles of airspace to perform. In addition to zero gravity, flyers aboard G-FORCE ONE experience Lunar gravity (one sixth your weight) and Martian gravity (one third your weight), achieved by flying a wider arc over the top of the parabola. On a typical flight, parabolas are flown in sets of three to five, with short periods of level flight between each set.

Diagram of a Parabolic Flight
Are the seats aboard the aircraft like regular airplane seats?
Yes. If you have flown on any commercial flight, your seat will be familiar.
Are the seat belts the same?

Yes! The plane uses standard seatbelts found on commercial aircraft.

How will I know when to get back to my seat? Will I be able to find it if I get confused during a zero gravity portion of a parabola?
Orienting yourself in zero gravity and making your way back to a designated position are things we will be studying during the flight. That said, ZERO-G coaches, who have hundreds of hours of parabola experience, are there to help.
Will I get air sick? What happens if I do? Can we stop the flight if I get sick?

If there is a life-threatening emergency, ZERO-G will stop the flight and return to Long Beach. Otherwise, if you simply become air sick or have other difficulties, trained ZERO-G personnel will be there to help.

Can my attendant accompany me?

It is currently not our plan to allow personal attendants to fly with disabled participants. This may be something we reconsider on subsequent flights.A designated non-disabled participant will be assigned to every disabled participant to assist in any emergency situations. 

Can I bring my white cane aboard the aircraft?

On an airplane, blind people travel with either a long cane, stowed safely against the fuselage, or a folding cane secured in the seat back pocket ahead of your seat.  This is safe and well-established. However, a zero gravity flight is new territory.

Nobody knows how to balance the potential danger of a cane that gets loose during the flight with the essential need for a blind person to have access to safe means of moving about independently during an emergency.  That is one of the things we hope to investigate either on this, or subsequent flights.  Either way, you will stow your cane securely at the beginning of the flight and retrieve it when the flight is over. You will always know where it is and be able to access it in case of emergency.

Can I bring my mobility device?

Mobility devices can be used on the ground up to the point of boarding the aircraft. We will be working with mobility-limited participants to determine best practices for getting them onto the plane as well as into and out of the 'floating area' in the aircraft.

Can I bring my service animal aboard the aircraft?
You are, of course, very welcome to bring a service animal with you when you come to Long Beach for training and other activities before and after the flight, but just as you would not take a service animal aboard a roller coaster, you cannot bring a service animal aboard the ZERO-G flight.
How loud is it on the flight?

The cabin noise levels inside the 727 have been measured at 70-90 decibels during parabolas. This correlates to the engines being at low thrust during the low-gravity portions and at high thrust during higher-gravity portions of the flight.

What if I can't hear instructions or tell what's going on?

ZERO-G typically uses verbal commands and instructions on the aircraft. Part of our objectives are to find out what other types of signals are needed to ensure everyone can safely participate! At the very least, an assigned assistant will be available to signal those with low hearing.

Will somebody be with me during the zero gravity portions of the flight?

Yes! In addition to your fellow participants, ZERO-G staff includes experienced Coaches onboard the aircraft to help with your experience. 

Does the ZERO-G staff know about disability? Will they be willing to let us do what other participants do on a flight?

We are working closely with ZERO-G, and they understand the need to balance the needs of disabled participants to be independent and the need for coaching for new fliers.

What is the interior of the aircraft like?

ZERO-G utilizes a converted Boeing 727-200 cargo aircraft (N794AJ). There are 38 first-class airline seats installed in the rear of the aircraft along with safety equipment. The part of the aircraft cabin is an open 'floating area' with padding on the floor, walls, and ceiling. The floating area is approximately 66 ft long by 10 ft wide and 7 ft high.

Padded interior of a 727 aircraft

Will there be someone aboard who knows American Sign Language (ASL)?

Yes.
Will I have to transfer from my wheelchair into a seat aboard the aircraft?
Yes.

What does the High-G portion of the flight feel like?

"G" is the symbol for the force of gravity. 1 G is what you feel all the time, walking around on Earth. If you can imagine doubling your weight, that would be 2 G. For context, when you accelerate in a car, you might feel an extra one third gravity, but you probably have not felt 2 G acceleration in a car unless you are a race car driver. Roller coasters, on the other hand, can push you back into your seat anywhere from 2 to 5 G. The high-G portion of the flight should be 1.8 G at the most. 

What does Martian gravity feel like?

Martian gravity is about .38 G , meaning you will be about 1/3 of your normal Earth body weight. Objects drop at 3.721 m/s² (vs 9.807 m/s² on Earth!), so you will notice that you fall much slower when you hop or jump.

What does lunar gravity feel like?

Lunar gravity is about .166 G , meaning you will be about 1/6 of your normal Earth body weight. Objects drop at 1.62 m/s² (vs 9.807 m/s² on Earth!), so you will notice that you fall much, MUCH slower when you hop or jump.

Does zero gravity feel like falling or floating?

Zero gravity (or "free fall") is hard to describe! You still have mass and any acceleration you provide by jumping or pushing yourself will remain until you bump into something else. The weightless sensation is unlike anything you've ever experienced previously. It is not like scuba diving or like sky diving (where you can kick or pivot to control your motion)--it is not like anything on Earth! 

If I am chosen, what are my obligations before the flight?
There will be forms to fill out, and we will be in touch with you about training. You should set aside three days before the flight for preparations and be ready to travel to Long Beach to fly. You may also be asked to answer questions from the press, talk and write about yourself and your passion for disability inclusion in space and utilize any social media at your disposal to promote Mission: AstroAccess activities. Our partner organizations may also ask you to work with them in promoting their participation.
What are my obligations during the flight?
We will ask you to show up, be engaged and ready, to carry out whatever research task is assigned to you whether or not it was something you had submitted yourself, and to follow instructions given to you by ZERO-G coaches.
And, have a fantastic time and celebrate with us as disabled people draw closer to equality!
What are my obligations after the flight?
For a year after this first flight, our crew will be ready to talk with the press and to reflect on their experience and to work with our partner organizations as Mission: AstroAccess Ambassadors. We will also ask you to promote Mission: AstroAccess with whatever social media you have and to generally help us with the overall mission of inclusion in space.
Frequently Asked Questions:

The Application Process

Where do I apply?
Do I have to disclose my disability?

Yes. We know this can be a personal subject, but we have 3 reasons for asking you to disclose your disability in detail: First, although the presence of a disability does not make a zero G flight more dangerous per se, there are some situations (such as heart problems) that make the flight unsafe for some people. Second, This is a research flight. We have to know the abilities of our crew so that we can design tasks that will answer real questions about real people in space. Finally, as an AstroAccess Ambassador, you must be comfortable talking about yourself and your disability in public. You absolutely do not need to disclose every aspect of your disability publicly, but you must be comfortable talking about the aspects of your disability that make you a good fit for our project.

What is the timeline for selection?

Applications will close at 11:59 PM ET on August 15, 2021. We anticipate notifying candidates of their preliminary selection, pending signed paperwork and medical approval, by September 1. We expect to announce our crew to the public on September 17, one month prior to our flight date of October 17. This timeline is subject to change.

When will I be notified?

We plan on contacting all shortlisted candidates by September 1, 2021.

What will help me most in the application process?

We know it sounds cliche, but be yourself. Don't be afraid to show that you are passionate, joyful, creative, hard working and a superb team player. We want to learn about you, your situation, and the ways in which this opportunity would impact your work. Also... fill out the forms completely, accurately and on time, and be ready to answer questions as they arise. When it comes to your 2 minute video, we are not concerned with its production value or social media impact, but rather its content. We are excited to learn about why you would be an incredible fit for this project!