I think I’ve mentioned in passing in at least a couple of posts about a work trip that is coming up. Well, it’s here, or rather it will be on Wednesday. I’m going to Johnson Space Center in Houston, which in itself is not that big a deal. I’ve been to Johnson twice for work trips in the last 3 years, and for NASA folks to travel between NASA centers is fairly common. But two BIG things make this trip different. One, is the reason I am going. If the title of this post wasn’t clue enough or if you’ve never heard that phrase before, I am going to Houston to fly in an aircraft nicknamed ‘Vomit Comet.’ A nicer sounding name is the ‘Weightless Wonder.’ It’s an aircraft which NASA uses to simulate microgravity so they can do research. The plane flies in a roller coaster pattern, and just like during a big drop in a roller coaster when you come out of your seat in freefall and get that floaty, lost-your-stomach feeling — when the plane noses over in a freefall you float just like the astronauts do in space. It lasts less than 30 seconds. But then the plane does it over and over again about 30 times on the flight I’ll be on.
Why on earth am I doing this you might ask? Well, NASA does it all the time, as I said for research. And one of the cool things NASA does is let students submit research ideas and then fly their experiments. I’m not a student and I didn’t submit a research idea, but since I write about such things for work (and have written at least a half or dozen stories about these flights), my team is sending me to fly with one of the student teams and write and blog about it for work (not blog here but on the NASA web site).
So the main purpose of the trip being to freefall from the sky already sets the trip apart from previous trips. Yet the second thing that makes this trip different is I’m going alone. As I mentioned, I’ve been to Houston twice before. The first time was just 2 weeks after I started at NASA. I traveled with the other writer on our team who had been to Johnson before and knew the area, the restaurants, how to find Target — all the important things, you know. The second time was for a conference, and I was with two other members of our team. This time, it’s just me. I’m not scared, per se, just perhaps have a heightened awareness. I end up doing pretty well in such situations but it can still make me nervous. I’m looking forward, too, to a good friend flying over from Dallas and spending the weekend with me since the training and the flight covers part of two weeks but I have the weekend free.
Honestly, I am excited and nervous about every part of this trip: being away from home and my boys for 7 days; holding my own in the work I’ll be doing and representing my team well; training and preparing for the flight; The Flight; blogging officially; deciding all on my own what and where to eat dinner; whether or not I’ll look horrible in the flightsuit; looking horrible in the flightsuit but having to put photos and videos of myself on my work blog anyway; The Flight (did I say that one already?).
I’m really not as panicked as it sounds. Stay tuned ….