Watching OK Go’s latest music video, Upside Down & Inside Out, probably had you screaming, “I want to do that!” The band sure makes it look easy, but the choreographed stunts the members perform are highly complex, and probably a bit dangerous.
However, it is possible for anyone with the guts and grits – and the funds – to experience zero gravity.
One major American company, Zero-G, specializes in the type “weightless flights” that you see in the music video, where you can float around the inside of a plane, like astronauts and the OK Go guys.
It’s surprisingly simple: A plane flies in a parabolic arc, climbing at an angle of nearly 45 degrees, to around 25,000 feet. As the aircraft reaches the top of its arc, the occupants enter a period of free-fall, which they experience as zero gravity for less than 30 seconds before the plane must tip down and begin its descent. The plane will make this maneuver several times. It’s one way space agencies, like NASA, train astronauts.
Of course, it’s not for everyone; they don’t call the plane a “vomit comet” for no reason. OK Go reportedly spent a year preparing for the video. But for adrenaline junkies who love the free-fall sensation of high-altitude roller coasters, here’s how to get the maximum thrill weightlessness.
Starting at $4,950, Zero-G provides a flight that includes 15 parabolic maneuvers, each period lasting 20 to 30 seconds. The company’s modified Boeing 727 takes passengers up to 24,000 feet, as they’re being pulled by 1.8 Gs. There is a pre-flight orientation, and everyone is paired with a coach. Meals are provided before and after a flight, if you can keep it down. You’ll also get photos and a video of your time in the sky.
Throughout the year, Zero-G offers the experience in various parts of the country. On April 24, there is a special flight with skateboarding veteran Tony Hawk. The company, which counts a former astronaut and a NASA engineer as its founders (now owned by Space Adventures, a company specializing in space tourism; see below), also offers “weightless weddings,” where you can tie the knot in zero gravity.
Florida-based Incredible Adventures uses a smaller Rockwell Commander plane, so there’s less room to float around, but it creates the same feeling of weightlessness. A flight with this company gets you 10 parabolas, with each period lasting only about 10 seconds. Flights start at $2,500, but you will need to head down to Florida. If it’s the feeling of free-fall you’re after, it’s an alternative to Zero-G’s pricier (but longer) experience.
Why experience a few seconds of weightlessness when you can live in it? Provided that you have several tens of millions of dollars, Space Adventures, the company that owns Zero-G, will take you beyond Earth’s gravity-pull. So far, the company has taken only six super-wealthy individuals into space, and it’s dependent on the availability of Russia’s space agency.
OK, so you’re most likely priced out of the above options. A more affordable experience is to head to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, and take a ride on Kingda Ka, the world’s tallest roller coaster. Once you climb to 418 feet, you’ll feel a second of weightlessness as you zoom back down. There’s also a second, albeit brief, weightless moment before it pulls into the station. It’s not true zero gravity, as you don’t get to float around (that would be a bad thing in this situation) but a few times on the ride should be enough to satisfy until you can save up.
Skydiving isn’t the same as a zero gravity experience, as you’re mainly just free falling. But in an indoor skydiving facility like iFly, you can float around and perform similar rolls and turns. Depending on the location, prices start at around $60.
- Moving around in zero gravity is hard. MIT’s solution? Spider-Man’s web shooter
- MIT’s zero-gravity musical instrument provides a soundtrack for space travel
- Nectar’s adjustable bed frame comes with a NASA-inspired Zero Gravity setting
- Watch inside Soyuz as it blasts astronauts (and toys) into space
- The best free flight simulators