No, it's not a type of projectile vomiting, nor is it a comet. The Vomit Comet, so named by journalists, is a series of planes flown by NASA. The agency's pilots knew that by flying in stomach-turning parabolas, they could create weightlessness for everything onboard. At first, NASA used the plane to train astronauts and test equipment. Later, flights were extended to college students for scientific experiments.
Unless you're a college student with a stellar project, you can't ride the Vomit Comet. You can, however, buy a seat on the Zero Gravity Corporation's airplane. Zero-G states that it aims to make weightlessness accessible to the public [source: Zero-G]. The company emphatically does not call its plane the Vomit Comet. Its pilots, however, also fly in parabolas, giving passengers the sensation of weightlessness, lunar gravity and Martian gravity. So, get on, and try not to -- well, you know.
The price for this adventure is steep: $4,950 per person [source: Zero-G]. You'll also need reservations. The plane flies out of Las Vegas, Washington D.C., Cape Canaveral and sometimes other cities. Check the flight schedule to find out when and where you can meet it.
It's time to drive home, settle in to your bed and fall asleep to the light of your glow-in-the-dark NASA poster. What do you think, Armstrong-admirer? Was yours or Neil's a better ride?
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- Dean, Brandi, public affairs representative, Johnson Space Center. Personal communication. July 7, 2011.
- Glenn Research Center. "Facility Tours." May 26, 2011. (July 4, 2011) http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/events/tours.html
- Goddard Space Flight Center. "Welcome to the Goddard Visitor Center." Feb. 14, 2011. (July 4, 2011) http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/visitor/home/index.html
- Goddard Space Flight Center. "Goddard Visitor Center FAQs." Oct. 1, 2010. (July 4, 2011) http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/visitor/home/faq.html
- Great Lakes Science Center. "Hours & Admission." (July 5, 2011) http://www.greatscience.com/visit/hours.php
- Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "Chandra Blog: The Big Chandra Picture." (July 4, 2011) http://chandra.harvard.edu/blog/big_picture.html
- Jeffs, William, Johnson Space Center. Personal communication. July 6, 2011.
- Kennedy Space Center. "View a Rocket Launch." Feb. 23, 2011. (July 7, 2011) http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/launchingrockets/viewing.html
- Kennedy Space Center. "Launch Viewing Ticket Information -- Visitor Complex Launch Viewing." 2011. (July 4, 2011) http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/LVO.aspx
- Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. "Admission & Hours." (July 7, 2011) http://kennedyspacecenter.com/buy-tickets-admission-hours.aspx
- Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex representative. Personal communication. July 6, 2011.
- Langley Research Center. "Langley Research Center's Contribution to the Apollo Program." April 22, 2008. (July 7, 2011) http://www.nasa.gov/centers/langley/news/factsheets/Apollo.html
- Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). "Space Shuttle Main Engine Enhancement." August 2000. (July 7, 2011) http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/background/facts/ssme.html
- Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC). "Exploring the Invisible Universe: The Chandra X-Ray Observatory." (July 4, 2011) http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/main/index.html
- Moore, Jack, public relations specialist, Johnson Space Center. Personal communication. July 6, 2011.
- Mullen, Brian, media projects manager at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Personal communication. July 5, 2011.
- NASA. "Facts: Humans in Space." Feb. 28, 2004. (July 7, 2011) http://www.nasa.gov/facts/Space/space_facts_archives.html
- NASA. "Launch Schedule." June 28, 2011. (July 4, 2011) http://www.nasa.gov/missions/highlights/schedule.html
- NASA. "Shuttle Enterprise at Center of Museum's Space Hangar." Oct. 29, 2004. (July 4, 2011) http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/everydaylife/nasm_enterprise.htm
- The New York Times. "Science Topics: Space Shuttle." June 2, 2011. (July 4, 2011) http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/space_shuttle/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier
- Space Center Houston. "Visitor Information: Level 9 Tour." 2009. (July 4, 2011) http://www.spacecenter.org/Level9Tour.html
- Space Center Houston. "Visitor Information: Ticket Prices." 2009. (July 4, 2011) http://www.spacecenter.org/Prices.html
- Stennis Space Center. "Stennis Space Center." Jan. 10, 2011. (July 4, 2011) http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis/about/stennis/index.htm
- Virginia Air & Space Center (VASC). "Hours & Admission." (July 4, 2011) http://www.vasc.org/visitvasc/admission.html
- Williams, David R. "Viking Mission to Mars." Dec. 18, 2006. (July 7, 2011) http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/viking.html
- Zero-G Corporation. "About Us." 2008. (July 7, 2011) http://www.gozerog.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=about.welcome
- Zero-G Vorporation. "Reservations: Charter Flights." (July 4, 2011) http://www.gozerog.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Reservations.welcome
How does Swindon's Magic Roundabout traffic circle work? Learn more in this HowStuffWorks Now article.