Wayland administrator takes special zero gravity flight

Release Date: June 19, 2008

Dr. Elaine Seebo

TITUSVILLE, FLA.  – As the wife of a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, Dr. Elane Seebo has flown in many different aircraft over the decades. But nothing came close to the experience she had Sunday when participating in a flight with zero gravity.

              Seebo, who is associate vice president of external campuses at Wayland Baptist University, traveled to Florida for the weekend to take part in the flight held at Zero G in Titusville. The company’s dedicated airspace near Melbourne, Fla., provided the room for 15 parabolas and a turnaround, with a short 30-minute trip to the airfield on the way back.

              “I’ve flown a lot, but this is a totally different sensation,” said Seebo. “I probably would never have gotten this opportunity if not on the committee, but I’d do it again if I got the chance.”

While the flight can be enjoyed for a mere $4,150, Seebo had the privilege of enjoying the experience free due to her role on a national visiting committee for the National Science Foundation’s project SpaceTec, a consortium of schools that train space technicians.

              “Since they are phasing out the space shuttle program, SpaceTec has been awarded the contract to provide workforce training for folks in microgravity,” Seebo explained. “This was an attempt to familiarize us more with what the program will be doing than what we get in our twice annual meetings.”

              Seebo’s group got the full experience. The day began at 7 a.m. with a three-hour briefing session, following by the suit-up and trip to the airfield. Flights are conducted in a modified 727 aircraft with limited seating and an empty, padded interior. Once the flight portion begins, the aircraft does 15 parabolas, which Seebo likened to a large up-and-down roller coaster.

              “You pull about 2 Gs going up, then go into zero gravity coming down, sort of like a free fall,” she explained. “You have to have your feet down when you come out of zero gravity because you just fall.”

Dr. Elaine Seebo

             The flight consisted of one parabola at Martian gravity, which is 1/3 of that on earth, and the group did pushups to show how easy it is at 1/3 of their weight. The next two parabolas were at lunar gravity, which is 1/6 of the earth’s gravity. The remainder of the flight was at zero gravity.

              “Whichever way you are going, you just keep going until something stops you,” said Seebo, noting that the “something” was often the wall or ceiling of the aircraft or other persons. The teams wore colored socks in flight to divide them and to prevent injury since “you end up kicking each other a lot.”

              Several members of her flight group were participating in low-level medical training in a zero gravity environment, so Seebo played the role of a wounded person in one session. With a simulated gash on her arm, the medics had to use common, proper medical procedures to bandage the arm – without gravity, of course.

              “It’s funny how even something like putting on latex gloves is a difficult task,” she noted. “It was interesting to watch.”

              During a few of the zero gravity sessions, groups watched the behavior of a bottle of water and discussed how astronauts eat and drink in space. Seebo indulged in a few flips, taking advantage of the weightlessness, calling that “something I would not typically do.”

              Overall, she said the experience was enjoyable and was a good learning experience as well, especially in her role with SpaceTec. She has been on the committee for six years and is one of six members. Several others made the flight as well.