As we prepare to go up into space, to make the trip truly unforgettable it is important to get some good training in. We need to ensure our bodies can cope with the experience well so we can really enjoy it. In order to do that we went through some weightlessness training on a Zero G plane in the US.
While the exhilaration of being in space can’t be replicated, zero gravity training gives you a brief but pretty accurate idea of what your body is going through as you float in space. Buzz Aldrin had told us to miss out the “vomit comet” as it’s known “because space is so much better”, but we decided to give it a try anyway!
The most incredible thing about the Zero G flight is lying flat on the ground in the plane, slowly finding your body lifting and then levitating all the way up until you hit the top of the plane. You literally had to peel us off the ceiling!
As you get more confident, you can do loops, float around and have the kind of fun that causes the priceless looks on our faces in the photos!
You have to be careful when the plane starts levelling out that you don't come crashing back down to the floor – it’s a bit of a roller coaster, but fun. We did 15 parabolas (15 times when the plane pulls up then dives down). In SpaceShipTwo you just have one very long and very high parabola, which is much more gentle on the body and gives you much longer to experience the wonder of being weightless as well as the wonder of space! After about 12 parabolas on the plane, some people started looking slightly green in the face, but everybody survived and got off feeling it was one of those great moments in their lives.
I had the privilege of floating in a most peculiar way with my son Sam and his wife Bellie, my assistant Helen, plus George Whitesides and Dave Clark from Virgin Galactic. From my point of view, and Sam and Bellie's, it made us that much more excited about our space trip ahead, and more confident in our ability to deal with it.
Peter Diamandis, who founded the XPRIZE and owns the Zero G plane also joined us. If he hadn't come up with the idea of the XPRIZE, SpaceShipOne would never have got built and the whole Virgin Galactic programme may never had happened. We have a lot to thank him for!
We were delighted to bring Maxim Ivanov and his daughter Polina along for the trip too. Maxim signed Polina up for a Virgin Galactic flight two years ago when she was 12. She’s not our youngest future astronaut, but is certainly close!
We took around 80 other future astronauts along to do their training, and everybody had a wonderful time. It has certainly whetted our appetite to experience space for real. Testing is going very well – watch this space for more news on Virgin Galactic’s progress.
All photos by Steve Boxall and Zero Gravity Corporation.