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Teenagers take the Plunge!

by Guest Blogger: STEM Student Journalist 14. October 2009 15:53

Students from Space School UK aged 13-15, took the plunge in a scuba experience, to understand the weightless feeling of being in space. 

Astronauts prepare for ‘space missions’ walking activities, by using micro gravity simulations. The most common method of imitating the weightlessness feeling, felt on extra vehicular activities, is the neutral buoyancy simulator (NBS, scuba diving). This creates a similar effect to microgravity. When in neutral buoyancy, you are neither sinking, nor floating, just simply suspended in a liquid. Scuba diving is essential in astronaut training, and nearly any task in NBS can be performed in space. Astronaut training facilities all have a large swimming pool for experiencing weightlessness.  

Another weightlessness simulation is the “vomit comet”, which gives a feeling of weightless for approximately 25 seconds of the flight, which normally lasts 2 hours. The weightless sensation is created in space because there are no forces exerted on it, not because there is no gravity, as it only decreases by about 12%. The same feelings are created in the state of freefall. It creates the weightlessness feeling, because the pull of gravity is equal to the rate you are falling at. 

When we arrived at the pool, we were firstly given a talk about scuba diving, and the health and safety rules involved. After this we were given our equipment, which was then fitted. After this we finally got into the pool.  I found the scuba training challenging, as you’re not allowed to hold your breath under water without breathing out, if you hold your breath it could be dangerous. This was challenging as you normally told the opposite. I also found the experience exciting, as I’d never had the chance to stay under water for so long. 

As we started to try and swim along, I found the weights attached (which were there to remain in neutral buoyancy), very unstable. This made me turn around, and as I had all the heavy equipment as well, I found it hard to keep stability. After a while I got used to the equipment, and had another weight attached to equal the forces out. After everyone had finished their training, and had taken a lap round the pool, we began our mission to fix our moon buggy in a 30 minute time limit. The objective was that the buggy had broken when it hit the moon, and the pieces were scattered around the pool which we had to fetch. 

The instructions stated that you are only allowed to carry two items at a time, while the other team members built the Lander.  I found it fun but hard to communicate, as we could only rely on hand signals. We managed to complete our mission, and took the fixed moon buggy to the surface. I found the experience amazing, and I would love to do it again.

Guest Blogger: Amber Coggins,STEM Student Journalist ,Walton Girls High School, Grantham

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The views expressed in this Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the East Midlands STEM Partnership, its partners or funders, including East Midlands Development Agency.

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