Press Release

Howard University Students Participate in Flight Aboard NASA’s Reduced Gravity Aircraft

By SpaceRef Editor
December 4, 2013
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Howard University Students Participate in Flight Aboard NASA’s Reduced Gravity Aircraft

Four Howard University students, along with NASA and faculty mentors, ventured to NASA Johnson Space Center’s Ellington Field in Houston to conduct experiments aboard the reduced gravity aircraft Nov. 12-13.

The Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program (RGEFP) gives undergraduate students the opportunity to design, build and fly experiments in reduced gravity. The teams have been working with NASA scientists and engineers to develop experiments based on current NASA research. Students and their NASA mentors performed these experiments aboard a microgravity aircraft. The aircraft produces periods of weightlessness for up to 25 seconds at a time by executing a series of approximately 30 roller coaster-like parabolas over the Gulf of Mexico. During the free falls, students gathered data in the unique environment that mimics space.

The Howard University team’s opportunity to participate was the result of the hard work and commitment of Janelle Holmes-Lead, Ajamu Abdullah, Aara’L Yarber and Ryan O’Donnell (Ground Crew: Raul Garcia-Sanchez; Howard University Physics Professor Prabhakar Misra; NASA Mentor: Bradley Carpenter, Ph.D.). The team was selected for the Minority University Research and Education Program, or MUREP, a flight program based on scientific merit and educational outreach potential. Team members have put many hours into researching and building their experiment. They also took time to reach out to other students and the community to share their unique experiences and discoveries.

“We are excited that our program provides once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for aspiring scientists and engineers to study and understand their craft. The students gain useful skills by participating in the program through collaborative planning and teamwork,” said Frank Prochaska, RGEFP Manager.

The Howard University student team arrived at Ellington Field, where astronauts do their T-38 training, on Nov. 8. They then underwent required training and safety briefs and flew their experiments during the week of Nov. 8-15.  The Howard Physics experiment, “Low Gravity Gas-Liquid Contactor,” observed the behavior of liquid water and the effects of surface tension without the dominating force of gravity. During this experiment, a syringe was used to eject water, forming a liquid column between two small discs. The behavior of this column was recorded using two video cameras simultaneously and the data analyzed under microgravity conditions where it showed clearly that the liquid column was highly stable for longer durations and over extended distances as compared to normal 1-g conditions. The team is currently evaluating its findings, drawing conclusions and will provide its results to NASA.

For more information, contact Dr. Prabhakar Misra, Department of Physics & Astronomy; 202-806-6245;  For more information about the Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program, visit

For more information about the Minority University Research and Education Program, visit  Or contact Ashle Harris at NASA Johnson Space Center’s Public Affairs Office, at 281-792-7457, or

SpaceRef staff editor.