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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

All aboard the 'vomit comet': UAE students to compete to win trip into zero gravity

Students studying in the UAE can win a flight on special Nasa aircraft that simulates floating in space

Flying on board the NASA jet aircraft that simulates zero gravity and has earned the nicknames "weightless wonder" and "vomit comet". Courtesy Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre / Nasa
Flying on board the NASA jet aircraft that simulates zero gravity and has earned the nicknames "weightless wonder" and "vomit comet". Courtesy Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre / Nasa

It’s the next best thing to going into space – as long as you have a strong stomach.

Students are being offered a chance to experience zero gravity thanks to a competition organised by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.

The winners will fly to Florida for a flight that simulates the experience of gravity on Mars, the Moon and in space, where they will be completely weightless.

The specially adapted Boeing 727 climbs steeply, then plunges at an angle of 46 degrees and at 350kph in a parabolic trajectory that creates the effect of zero gravity for up to 22 seconds.

Known officially as reduced-weight aircraft, they are used by Nasa to train astronauts who gave it the nickname “vomit comet” because it can induce nausea. Nasa prefers to call them "weightless wonders".

The winners of the competition will also carry out scientific experiments during their flights, simulating working on the International Space Station – the destination for the first UAE astronauts in 2020.

As well as training its first astronaut corps, the Space Centre is involved in a number of projects, including the 2020 Emirates Mars Mission and the long-term goal of a city on Mars by 2117.

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"We are thrilled to be able to offer such a unique scientific experience to our future generation of space explorers residing here in the UAE to enable them to join the country in its journey to space,” said Adnan Al Rais, the director of the Mars 2117 Programme at the Space Centre.

There will be 20 winners, with the contest open to anyone studying in the UAE over the age of 16. Individuals can apply through the MBRSS website, and groups up to a maximum of three people.

Applicants must answer three questions either in writing, or by making a video, talking about what experiment they would conduct in zero gravity conditions. The closing date is July 5.