The Pull of Zero Gravity
The final scene in the Horizon documentary was to have been Ian flying weightless in NASA’s KC135 microgravity plane, since some of his problems paralleled those an astronaut, Marsha Ivins, had found in space. It was not possible to arrange in time, but later Ian did fly the KC135. First he went to Boston for research on Coriolis forces and then to NASA in Houston. Unfortunately, Ian’s experiments in altered gravity were unsuccessful for technical reasons—he was also terribly sick. In zero gravity everything floats, and one normally feels relaxed and free, whereas in 1.8g the whole body appears tensed and heavy. Ian experienced nothing of this; without proprioception these all-pervasive feelings of lightness and of crushing heaviness were absent. Riding the KC135 was a risky thing for Ian, but, as he explains, it is boring being disabled while this was fun, and “bloody exciting.”
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