York U -- Leader in the Space Engineering Research

Canadian Universities Forum (discussion group)

Subject: York U -- Leader in the Space Engineering Research
York researchers floating in zero gravity aboard final Bordeaux flight
Experiments investigate why astronauts become disoriented in space

TORONTO, September 29, 2006 -- York University researchers will float in zero gravity today aboard an airplane modified to simulate weightlessness, in order to investigate why astronauts become disoriented in space, and what can be done about it.

The research, funded by the Canadian Space Agency, is taking place aboard the same airplane that hosted a zero-gravity surgery earlier this week.

The team, from York?s Centre for Vision Research, has been conducting experiments on the flights from Bordeaux, France, aboard a specially-designed Airbus 300. The plane flies in such a manner as to provide brief periods of microgravity, making 30 of these manoeuvres, or parabolas, during each flight.

?Basically, we?re looking at what happens to astronauts? perception of up and down when we take away the cue of gravity,? says team leader Laurence Harris, professor of psychology in York?s new Faculty of Health. ?They can easily become disoriented; we?re looking at ways to combat this.?

?Being in microgravity is like flying,? says Michael Jenkin, a professor in York?s Faculty of Science and Engineering who is part of the team conducting the experiments. ?You feel completely free of the world ? at least for twenty seconds or so.

Jenkin and York colleagues Heather Jenkin, Richard Dyde, and Jim Zacher will work alongside professor Joe McIntyre of the Universit? Ren? Descartes (Paris 5) to gather preliminary data and test instruments during the interludes of weightlessness, which last 22 seconds each.

It?s a prelude to experiments that will be conducted with astronauts on board the International Space Station next year.

?We are collecting more data than expected, and the software has been deployed successfully on three different experimental platforms. Everything looks good for data collection on the ISS,? Jenkin says.

Harris notes that researchers have access to equipment that is identical to that on board the space station.

?We can therefore make sure that all the instruments and procedures work properly, which can be tricky in zero gravity,? Harris says. ?This is exactly the same strategy as used at the other end of the plane where they are testing the ability to carry out surgical procedures in space ? test it out in brief periods of microgravity before taking those procedures into the world of permanent microgravity.?

But is it dangerous? ?It can be uncomfortable, and it can also cause motion sickness,? Harris says. ?We have team members spotting the other members at all times during the experiment to ensure no one gets hurt. Quite honestly, I?d really like to be going up there, too. It?s not something many of us will get to experience in the course of a lifetime.?

York University is the leading interdisciplinary research and teaching university in Canada. York offers a modern, academic experience at the undergraduate and graduate level in Toronto, Canada?s most international city. The third largest university in the country, York is host to a dynamic academic community of 50,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff, as well as 190,000 alumni worldwide. York?s 11 faculties and 23 research centres conduct ambitious, groundbreaking research that is interdisciplinary, cutting across traditional academic boundaries. This distinctive and collaborative approach is preparing students for the future and bringing fresh insights and solutions to real-world challenges. York University is an autonomous, not-for-profit corporation.

(in reply to: York U -- Leader in the Space Engineering Research)
can these engineers hold a fork?
(in reply to: York U -- Leader in the Space Engineering Research)
I doubt those York engineers can´t even hold a fork.
UofT student

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