April Fools? USU GAS Team Will Attend NASA's 2012 Microgravity U After All
Thursday, May. 03, 2012
USU GAS Team project leader Ryan Martineau floats in microgravity aboard NASA's 'Vomit Comet’ jet in June 2011. Martineau and five other Aggies will travel again this summer to Houston’s Johnson Space Center to fly their experiment. Courtesy NASA.
T minus 72 days and counting: GAS Team members, from left, Dayne Howard, Jacob Kullberg and veteran 'Vomit Comet' flyers Troy Munro, team coordinator and Ryan Martineau, project leader, prepare for NASA’s 2012 Microgravity University.
Utah State University’s Get Away Special Team returns to Houston’s Johnson Space Center this summer  as participants in NASA’s prestigious Microgravity University. For the third consecutive year, the student space research team will fly an experiment of their design aboard a microgravity ‘vomit comet’ jet.
“Our proposal for the 2012 program was initially rejected,” says Ryan Martineau, student project leader. “But we received word from NASA that additional funds recently became available and our team was chosen due to our existing successful hardware and student eligibility.”
The team’s experiment, called “Follow-Up Nucleate Boiling On-flight Experiment 2.5” or FUNBOE 2.5, builds on the team’s 2010 and 2011 experiments as well as a previous GAS team experiment that flew on Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2001.
“We were very successful in collecting data during our 2010 and 2011 microgravity flights, but there are still things we want to know,” says Martineau, an undergraduate aerospace and mechanical engineering major, who flew on the microgravity jet last summer. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to make new measurements.”
The FUNBOE experiments examine fundamental questions about boiling water and other liquids in space. FUNBOE 2.5 will continue to test a novel idea of cooling using boiling heat transfer on a micro-fabricated silicon chip, along with measuring critical heat flux. The ability to control bubble generation and use boiling as a mechanism of heat transfer could have multiple applications, he says, including thermal management solutions critical for long-term space travel to Mars and beyond.
Martineau will serve as team leader and ground crew member for the five-student team of flyers that travels to Houston July 13-21. (Team members will be selected within the coming week.) Aboard NASA’s specially modified 727 jet, the Aggies will experience weightlessness as the plane, following a parabolic flight path, repeatedly climbs and dives from 32,000 feet in a series of about 32 controlled free falls above the Gulf of Mexico.
“I remember the first parabola just felt like a mix of ‘Huh?' and ‘Whoa!’” Martineau says. “To me, it just felt like for the first time in my life I was free from a constraint that I didn't know I could live without.”
Utah State is among about 15 college teams selected nationally to participate in the 2012 Microgravity University, formally known as the Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program. The students will spend more than a week in astronaut training at JSC before experiencing microgravity flight.
“We’re grateful for this opportunity,” Martineau says. “It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The USU GAS team is supported by corporate sponsors and the Elwell Get Away Special Program Assistance Fund for Utah State University. The fund was established in 2011 by USU alum Jim Elwell ‘82, and his wife, Diane. Elwell, a member of the GAS Team from 1977 to 1981, was among the students whose experiment flew aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle Columbia in 1982.
Coordinated by USU’s Department of Physics, the GAS team is largely responsible for one of Utah State’s most well known achievements: Utah State has sent more student-built experiments into space than any other university in the world. In addition to FUNBOE, the team is working on a CubeSat (cube satellite) project.
- “Jettison the Pods! Aggie Space Researcher Presents ‘CubeSat’ Plans,” Utah State Today
- “Pass It On: USU Alum Jim Elwell Gives Space Science Students a Boost,” Utah State Today
- USU Get Away Special Team on Facebook
Contact: Ryan Martineau, 435-279-5916, email@example.com
Contact: Troy Munro, 801-558-4780, firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517, email@example.com