TEMPE, AZ, February 27, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- The Dust Devils Microgravity Research Team of Arizona State University has been accepted to this year's Microgravity University run by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The proposal consisted of an astrophysics experiment testing the first seconds of galaxy formation. ASU's Microgravity Research Team will be heading to Texas's Ellington Field, part of Johnson Space Center, in April to test their experiment on the modified Boeing 727-200, a plane that creates near-weightlessness during the flight.
The astrophysics experiment being tested tries to explain how the particles of interstellar dust became attached together. To test this, several types of dust will be put into a vacuum-sealed chamber and will be filmed during weightlessness. The combination of a vacuum and weightlessness will create an environment similar to the conditions of space. Once the dust is floating around, high definition cameras will record the particles in an effort to detect accumulation.
The modified Boeing 727-200, called G-FORCE ONE, achieves a weightless interior by following a parabolic flight path. After an ascent, the plane rapidly descends causing the interior to be in freefall and experience weightlessness. The team will experience 30 sessions of weightlessness, each lasting about 20 seconds.
Microgravity University is part of the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program, which was founded in 1995. The purpose of Microgravity University is to provide students "...the opportunity to successfully propose, design, fabricate, fly and evaluate a reduced gravity experiment of their choice over the course of four to six months. The overall experience includes scientific research, hands-on experimental design, test operations and educational/public outreach activities."
However, the team also requires the support of the community. Additional funds are needed to complete the upgrades to the system design. In the next few months, members of the Dust Devils will be going on an outreach and fundraising campaign.
The Dust Devils Microgravity Research Team consists of Arizona State University students ranging from freshman to upperclassmen. Junior Jack Lightholder, a NASA Space Grant intern, leads this team of diverse academic backgrounds. The Dust Devils proposed a re-flight of a previous experiment last flown in 2012. The last flight had technical difficulties that resulted in a proof of concept but limited data. This year the team will fly an upgraded version of the experiment, which they hope will yield more constructive data.
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