Vomit Comet Blog: Wednesday, May 3, 2006

posted by Vinaya

Finally! After almost 24 months, more than 450 emails, countless conference calls, two postponements and one NASA certified flight physical, I'm headed to Houston to experience Research in Freefall. During my three years as the Project Coordinator for the World Year of Physics 2005, I think I can honestly say that this project was the most exciting for me. Don't get me wrong, there were many exciting moments during the World Year: Our swanky kick-off Gala in February 2005; hiding--and hosting the lucky kids from Iowa who found--the PhysicsQuest treasure on the campus of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ; co-hosting the preview party for NOVA's "Einstein's Big Idea" movie at the National Academy of Sciences, to name just a few. But Research in Freefall? This has been the coolest.

What started out as a modest request to NASA for an uplink to the International Space Station (ISS), turned into our contest for high school teachers to "Research in Freefall." So we put out the call to high school teachers, nationwide, asking them--together with their students--to come up with experiments that they would want to conduct in Freefall. We received a total of 14 applications. (It was a rather long application.) Together with the American Association of Physics Teachers, an astronaut from NASA headquarters, and scientists from the American Physical Society, we chose six teams to Research in Freefall.

So here we are. After postponing the flight twice due to mechanical problems, we're finally going to be taking off in NASA's "Weightless Wonder." The next question you're probably asking is: How come Vinaya gets to go?

Well, during one of our long conference calls, we found out the one of the team members had to drop out. (Houston, we have a problem...sorry, I couldn't resist.) The discussion continued on how to find a replacement.

Vinaya: I'll do it. (I was only half-way joking.)

LONG PAUSE ENSUES. I'm thinking to myself, "Uh-oh, I've said something completely inappropriate. How embarassing. I should say something. NO! don't say anything more."

Donn Sickorez (University Affairs Officer for JSC): Um...Sure. That's a great idea.

Vinaya: Really?!?

Donn: Yes...you'd better schedule your flight physical.

So, almost a year after the originally scheduled flight, we're taking off for Houston. I'll keep you updated from Houston about our flight training, and of course, the flight. Feel free to send me comments. vinaya@aps.org.

Houston, here I come!