Why a parabolic flight ?

As teachers and instructors working for the Euro Space Society, we lead the "Space Classes" at the Euro Space Center at Transinne in Belgium. To optimize the space classes it is necessary for us to inform ourselves: to do this we follow lectures, we take part in workgroups and we visit exhibitions about space and astronomy.

Euro Space Center - Web site

One of the most important themes during the space classes is "microgravity". To understand what microgravity is, and how it feels to be in weightlessness, you must experience it yourself if you want to explain it more accurately to the young people. Because they have so many questions about microgravity, such as :
How does it feel to be in weightlessness ? What is a parabolic flight ? ...

Signe du destin, Monsieur Vladimir Pletser a donné le coup de pouce voire le coup de main nécessaire à l'élaboration des expériences destinées à être testées durant le vol parabolique.

So it's absolutely necessary for us to be correctly informed about this important part of space-science.
Young people in our space classes (ages 10 -18) don't know what it is. They think that we have a room at the Euro Space Center in which you can be in weightlessness. Or that you must travel in space as far as you can to be in microgravity. It's a very pleasant situation to be in weightlessness, but not so easy to explain, because you have to answer the following questions : what is weight? what is mass? hat is the difference between mass and weight? and of course, what is gravity?

That's the reason why we were candidates to fly on the Airbus A300-Zero G from Novespace in Bordeaux in France, and take part in the parabolic flight Campaign.


Robert and Dominique and the experiments


The crew cabin - Airbus A300


Our means to experience parabolic flights are simply based on toys. Toys are children's objects from their world and they know these well. But how do they work in microgravity? Some toys even work on physical principles (the laws of Newton).



Mireille and Edwin

So we had the opportunity to perform these experiments in the microgravity environment of the Airbus A300 - Zero G through the European Space Agency in the 29th Campaign from November 21-24, 2000.

During this parabolic flight, we made 31 parabolas. And on each parabola, we were in weightlessness or better in microgravity during 20 seconds.
The Airbus A300-Zero G flies about 6000 m high at a speed of 810 km/h. At a precious moment the airplane pulls up in 20 s to 7500 m. At that moment you feel that you weigh two times more, 2 g. You hear the commander through the microphone… thirty… forty… injection!
Magically our bodies were lifted off the floor, our hands and legs moved in midair, as if they were suspended by invisible puppet strings… we were floating!

We floated around and attempted to grab onto something. With almost no effort we had the complete freedom to move and float in any direction. It was really fun for 20-25 seconds!

Afterwards we heard… twenty… thirty… pull out!…
And again we felt two times heavier. After this first weightless-feeling we began our experiences for the next thirty parabolas for 20-25 s each. It's an extremely short time for the experience because you must find the best way to do your test. So we took two or three parabolas for one experience. We were all very satisfied about our parabolic flight!
It was an extraordinary life experience for us and we recommended it to everyone, especially to young people, and of course to everyone who can't go into space! We were filled with happiness! Now it is easier for us to explain what weightlessness is… and we discover the joy and excitement of science and technology in microgravity, in a situation of free falling!

Cliquez pour voir une animation du vol parabolique ...
 Click here to see an aimation of the parabolic flight ...

All the experiments were filmed and photographed to be used during the space classes and astronaut stages. Two pedagogical panels are also made to explain our adventure to the visitors of the new space exhibition of the Euro Space Center.

Some of our experiences :

The gyroscope

It's not so easy, because the gyroscope must be fixed on a string to your hand, and when it starts spinning it gets tangled up. The spinning motion of the gyroscope in microgravity works like it does on earth, only with more elegance and style. It's very beautiful to see that.

The flying banana

The meaning was to rotate a half-peeled banana around its length-axis. It then began to spin like a propeller. For this experience, we had to take three parabolas before we were satisfied. That was not so easy, because at first we did it to fast and afterwards it didn't spin, and so on… But it was very funny!

A spinning top

On earth, the friction between the top's spinning tip and the ground or table causes the top to slow down.
In microgravity the top keeps on spinning until it touches something or someone.
A spinning top continues to turn until a force acts on it.


Our conclusion concerning spinning objects is that they rotate around their center of mass.

We are convinced that such an experience would be more quiet and easier on board the Space Shuttle or the Space Station without turbulences.

Mireille and Edwin : the gyroscope and spinning top

Vladmir Pletser and Pierre-Emmanuel : the spinning top

The yoyo

We observed the movements of a yoyo during the different phases of the parabolic flight. At 2 G's the yoyo had difficulties to come back. At zero G the cord of the yoyo was floating. The spinning movement of the yoyo coudn't rewind the cord properly. The yoyo became a helpless floating thing.

A balsa plane

During the different phases of the parabolic flight, two Euro Space Center instructors threw a plane at each other. At 2 G's, it is more difficult to raise the arm and make a throwing movement. The flight of the plane was shorter and the plane flew faster. At zero G the plane floated. Without an attraction on the plane, the wings of the plane become useless. They don't have a carrying function anymore.

The plumbline

At zero G the plumb line floats around freely. But at 2 G's we can see a diminution of the pendular movement of factor


We also used a Velcro scratch - dartboard. At 1 G you only need some ability to draw and reach the dartboard with the darts ball. At zero G you have to point lower to reach the dartboard, at 2 G's you have to point higher to reach it.

Liquids in state of microgravity

Another experiment was to study the behavior of liquids in state of micro gravity. In a plastic container colored liquids were injected at the moment of micro gravity. The liquids started to float around and took the shape of a ball.

A dinky toy car in state of microgravity

A very funny experiment for children was the behavior of a dinky toy car in a toy circuit with a looping. At 1 G, the car took the looping without any difficulties, at 2 G's the car didn't even reach the top of the looping. The doubled pressure on the car made the toy too heavy. But at zero g the movements of the car were indescribable. It floated anywhere.

Astronaut movements

With Mr Vladimir Pletser I experienced a very interesting experiment. In state of microgravity he tumbled me around with my eyes closed. The inner-ear information already being disturbed due to the microgravity, you don't know in witch position you are. The only thing I felt were Mr Pletser's hands. At the end of the parabola he said, "I have you on the floor. You can open your eyes now." Big was my surprise when I noticed that I was sitting on the sealing, Mr Pletser holding me against it.
"This is a practical astronaut joke" he explained afterwards. This experiment shows us the loss of orientation when we shut down two senses of the human body, the sight and the sense of stability.

The scale

A scale experiment was placed onboard the airplane to study the evolution of weight during the different phases of the parabolic flight. Fixed with Velcro scratches a Euro Space Center instructor took place on the scale and observed the changes of his weight. During the 2 G phase his weight almost doubled. At the zero G phase, his weight suddenly throttled back to zero Newton. This experiment shows us that in state of microgravity the weight is equal to zero.


Feel the free-floating

Pierre-Emmanuel trying to draw Tania ...

We would like to thank Vladimir Pletser.

Links : CNES (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales) and ESA (European Space Agency).

Contact : Dominique Gering



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  การเรียนการสอนฟิสิกส์ 1  ผ่านทางอินเตอร์เน็ต

1. การวัด 2. เวกเตอร์
3.  การเคลื่อนที่แบบหนึ่งมิติ 4.  การเคลื่อนที่บนระนาบ
5.  กฎการเคลื่อนที่ของนิวตัน 6. การประยุกต์กฎการเคลื่อนที่ของนิวตัน
7.  งานและพลังงาน  8.  การดลและโมเมนตัม
9.  การหมุน   10.  สมดุลของวัตถุแข็งเกร็ง
11. การเคลื่อนที่แบบคาบ 12. ความยืดหยุ่น
13. กลศาสตร์ของไหล   14. ปริมาณความร้อน และ กลไกการถ่ายโอนความร้อน
15. กฎข้อที่หนึ่งและสองของเทอร์โมไดนามิก  16. คุณสมบัติเชิงโมเลกุลของสสาร
17.  คลื่น 18.การสั่น และคลื่นเสียง

   การเรียนการสอนฟิสิกส์ 2  ผ่านทางอินเตอร์เน็ต  

1. ไฟฟ้าสถิต 2.  สนามไฟฟ้า
3. ความกว้างของสายฟ้า  4.  ตัวเก็บประจุและการต่อตัวต้านทาน 
5. ศักย์ไฟฟ้า 6. กระแสไฟฟ้า 
7. สนามแม่เหล็ก  8.การเหนี่ยวนำ
9. ไฟฟ้ากระแสสลับ  10. ทรานซิสเตอร์ 
11. สนามแม่เหล็กไฟฟ้าและเสาอากาศ 

12. แสงและการมองเห็น

13. ทฤษฎีสัมพัทธภาพ 14. กลศาสตร์ควอนตัม
15. โครงสร้างของอะตอม 16. นิวเคลียร์ 

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1. จลศาสตร์ ( kinematic)

   2. จลพลศาสตร์ (kinetics) 

3. งานและโมเมนตัม 4. ซิมเปิลฮาร์โมนิก คลื่น และเสียง
5.  ของไหลกับความร้อน 6.ไฟฟ้าสถิตกับกระแสไฟฟ้า 
7. แม่เหล็กไฟฟ้า  8.    คลื่นแม่เหล็กไฟฟ้ากับแสง
9.  ทฤษฎีสัมพัทธภาพ อะตอม และนิวเคลียร์   


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