Why go to zero gravity? One reason is to study balance

A few months ago I won a contest on Instagram to go on a Zero-G flight with Space Hero, a new media company developing opportunities for civilians to explore space. While the flight was postponed due to Covid, over on LinkedIn they’re highlighting why I’m excited about research in space and microgravity – reposting here (post 1/3):

One challenge to future space exploration is the difficulty astronauts have with balance and orientation in changing between microgravity, Earth’s gravity, and someday Mars’ gravity.

I recently got to check out research on gravity and balance by scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder. For example, Dr. Jordan Dixon and his colleagues have rebuilt NASA’s Tilt Translation Sled that accelerates on tracks as subjects inside tilt and respond to visual cues to simulate hovering a spacecraft. They also have a Mars landing simulation that can be used to explore manual flying performance after exposure to altered gravity environments! Check out the video of me “landing” on Mars below 🙂

The research on balance and perception will help future astronauts stay safe, but could also improve safety here on Earth for pilots fighting disorientation, patients with fall-risk, or persons recovering from neural trauma.

I had my own experience with months of dizziness several years ago. Although I am well now, the experience made a lasting impact, and I hope the research into balance also helps future patients like me.

Me sitting in the rebuilt NASA Tilt Translation Sled used for studying disorientation and acceleration in helicopter pilots, while Dr. Jordan Dixon mans the controls outside.
“Landing” on Mars in the simulation

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