We will be flying in NASA’s “Vomit Comet” in order to measure the porosity of Martian soil simulant. The entire flight of the Vomit Comet would allow us to experience a range of microgravity levels, including the specific gravity of Mars. At Mars’ gravity we would be able to measure the exact porosity of Martian soil with a spectrometer. With the exact measurement of the porosity of Martian soil, researchers would be able to understand the surface of Mars more and uncover more knowledge about water on Mars.
The Vomit Comet- This reduced gravity aircraft flies a parabolic curved pathway which allows for thirty seconds of hypergravity as the aircraft is reaching the top of the curve to be felt and 18 seconds of microgravity as the aircraft is descending from the top of the curve. Hypergravity exceeds the force of Earth’s gravity which would leave us feeling heavy and make it hard to even lift a finger. On the other hand, microgravity would leave us completely weightless with the image of the floating astronaut as a perfect visual.
Martian Soil Simulant- The soil simulant comes from Hawaii’s Mauna Kea volcano. Pu’u Nene is the specific volcanic cone at 1850 meters elevation on the south flank of the Mauna Kea volcano where the soil is collected. The soil is weathered volcanic ash and drastically different from the soil most of us are used to.