It's 2022, and we still don't have flying cars. We've got phones that double as portable computers, headsets that put you in virtual deathmatch arenas, machines that can buy and bring us stuff using the power of our voices and movies so real-looking and clear that you can eat off them.
Still, no flying cars.
But there's something even better. Ordinary people can experience total weightlessness.
The Zero-G Experience takes people up to the skies in a hollowed-out Boeing 727 plane that executes a series of climbs and dives so the passengers can experience a few minutes without gravity. Zero-G will offer guests a chance to take one of two flights out of Love Field on Saturday, Dec. 17. The experience takes a half a day, with one crew flying up in the morning — a flight that's already sold out — and another crew taking the afternoon shift.
"It's tough to describe it because we don't have anything out there yet that perfectly captures it," says Jack O'Neill, the vice president of sales and marketing for Zero-G. "It's a much more serene experience than an adrenaline roller coaster thrill ride that people think it is. It's more of a peaceful, serene release from gravity."
The pilots take the plane up and run a route of 15 parabolas that create 30-40 seconds of weightlessness during the diving parts of the flight path. O'Neill says the weightless portions of the flight create 1.8 Gs of force and 7-8 minutes of float time during the 90-minute flight, which ascends to 32,000 feet. Commercial flights have a standard altitude of 36,000 feet.
The planes that create these weightless simulations are sometimes called "Vomit Comets," but O'Neill says experiencing an upset stomach or vomiting on these flights is rare.
"We recognize that's the public perception," he says. "That adage comes from our predecessor from NASA that would do 60-80 parabolas at a time because they wanted to test the limits of the experience. We've pared it way down and found a very small percentage of our passengers do get sick."
The only physical requirements are that passengers must be older than 8 and consult with a physician before the flight if they have any health conditions.
"We try to be as accessible of an experience as possible," he says. "We're on the most cost-effective side of the space tourism industry and make it as readily available to anyone."
Some of Zero-G's past passengers have included NASA astronauts and renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who took one of the company's flights in 2007.
"We've had plenty of former astronauts come on board with us from a plethora of missions," O'Neill says. "They will say that it's the same experience except that it's not a prolonged experience."
Photographers and Go-Pro cameras are placed throughout the fuselage to capture the passengers' weightless experience. After landing, the passengers are greeted with a Champagne celebration, when the pilot turns over each rider's name tag — a tradition that carries over from NASA astronauts' training after their first weightless flights.
O'Neill says Zero-G's flights are also used for research purposes such as testing the use of freeze-dried blood and the effects of rocket- and jet-fueled propulsion in a gravity-free environment. He believes everyone should have the chance to live out a childhood dream of flying through the air and the peaceful, placid environment just outside the Earth's atmosphere.
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune,Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.