The program is a yearly competition sponsored by NASA that selects university teams that have designed an experiment to be conducted in a “micro-gravity” environment. Selected teams are then invited to Houston for the competition and have the opportunity to fly on a specially designed NASA plane that creates a zero-gravity environment. The plane, deemed by NASA as the “Vomit Comet,” climbs to more than 32,000 feet before diving at a 45-degree angle. The dive creates about 25 seconds of near-weightlessness and allows the teams to conduct their experiments. Several dives are made over the course of the flight.
Teams are permitted to include a journalist to record the experience, and the UC engineering program chose Thompson due to her involvement in a daily WVXU program called “Focus on Technology,” which often features projects by UC students. The micro-gravity experiment they are conducting involves finding a way to enable nano-satellites to fly in formation in space. A nano-satellite is a much smaller version of a conventional satellite.
Upon her return, Thompson will produce a half-hour long radio special on the experience for WVXU.