Diamandis’ passion for space
Peter Diamandis is thought of as a futurist and an important entrepreneur. Especially in Europe, the media doesn’t focus on his main passion in life, astronautics. Getting into NASA and flying into space was one of his key motivations during his studies. That’s why he graduated in astronautics from MIT (along with medicine at Harvard, which he studied due to the wishes of his father, a physician).
He wasn’t accepted into NASA, so he decided to do things his own way. He conceived the XPrize competition as a result of which the first private glider flew into the stratosphere. Now he intends to run tourist flights into space under Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic brand (www.virgingalactic.com). I couldn’t resist and visited their airport in the Mojave Desert.
Peter founded the International Space University whose alumni include a host of important personalities in national space programs and which co-owns the companies Space Adventure and Planetary Resources, already operating two satellites and planning to mine asteroids in the future.
Zero G, Diamandis’ company for space experiences
The first and only commercial company for experiencing zero gravity, the Zero G Corporation (www.gozerog.com), is an interesting endeavor. It took Diamandis more than 15 years to get the necessary permits and to specially modify the aircraft that would enable such an experience. Stephen Hawking, Buzz Aldrin and Elon Musk were among the first to try the zero-gravity experience. Several successful movies were shot onboard the aircraft. Diamandis’ company also offers flights for scientific purposes and takes handicapped children on trips up into the sky.
A meetup at zero gravity
In October 2017, Peter Diamandis called a special meetup “at zero gravity” for members of the Abundance 360 community. It didn’t take me even 30 seconds to decide to attend, if only for the fact that it’s rare to catch Peter at zero gravity. Takeoff was planned from a private airport in Los Angeles and included pre-flight preparations, the actual two-hour flight, and a subsequent group lunch. Each participant received his/her own flight suit with an upside-down nametag.
The plane is a specially modified Boeing 727. There are several rows of seats in the rear for takeoff and landing, while the rest of the plane is only a padded “tunnel” without windows. Zero gravity is no simulation. The aircraft performs 18 parabolic maneuvers – first, it climbs sharply and then, for 20 to 30 seconds, it goes into freefall. This is exactly the moment the passengers inside the aircraft enter zero gravity. You can imagine it as if you are falling without any air resistance while the plane’s fuselage revolves around you and protects you. The transitions are gradual, and there are thus no dangerous situations. It also a display of the mastery of the pilots, who are responsible for both the smooth maneuvers and your enjoyment.
The first three maneuvers simulate Martian gravity and then lunar gravity. You can therefore experience walking at reduced gravity. The remaining 15 maneuvers will then really make you feel giddy.
How to swim at zero gravity
Personally, I found zero gravity very natural. No strange feelings in the head: you can turn as much as you like and you won’t get dizzy. The advantage is that you don’t perceive the aircraft’s pitch as there are no windows in the fuselage.
The biggest challenge is movement. If you can’t hang on to something, you don’t really have a chance to move or influence your movements. I completely failed in the discipline of catching water drops or candy.
After the last maneuver, I couldn’t believe it was over. Even though I’m not exactly a certificate type, I quite like looking at the zero-gravity-flight diploma. Together with the photos, it reminds me of this – really extraordinary – experience. I think that any technology and/or astronautics fan would feel the same.
Our AI start-ups will also fly
It seems that due to our collaboration with Peter, we will succeed in sending representatives of the best start-ups from our AI Startup Incubator on the same flight. I almost envy them.