In space, there is no up or down. That’s because there is no gravity in space. Astronauts and everything else aboard a spacecraft float freely.
Earthlings can experience the feeling of zero gravity without blasting into space. How? A zero-gravity flight. An airplane flies in a series of parabolas, or arcs. Each arc creates a temporary zero-gravity environment. Everyone and everything inside the plane floats freely for about 30 seconds.
“There is truly no other feeling like it on Earth,” Michelle Peters told TIME for Kids. She works for Zero-G. The company organizes zero-gravity flights for scientists and teachers. It also takes passengers as young as 8 on flights that are just for fun.
Gravity affects the human body, the behavior of plants, the way machines run, and more. Going to space is expensive and risky. But zero-gravity flights mimic the conditions of space. They are a helpful tool for scientists. They create an environment where scientists can experiment.
Nikolaus Kuhn is a scientist. He flew with Zero-G to do research. He studied the flow of water on Mars. There is less gravity on Mars than on Earth. This means water flows more slowly on Mars. Zero-G pilots can make their parabolas less steep. This creates the feeling of Martian gravity.
Flying with Zero-G has been essential for Kuhn’s work. He says it is the only way for him to investigate the behavior of water on Mars without going there.
As humans continue to explore the universe beyond Planet Earth, zero-gravity flights will remain an important—and fun—tool. “It never gets old,” says Peters of Zero-G. “I would do it every weekend for the rest of my life if I could.”