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1st all-civilian SpaceX crew enjoys zero-G training in Las Vegas

Chris Sembroski has enjoyed countless new experiences as a member of SpaceX’s first all-civilian flight crew. But floating through the air in zero gravity this weekend above Las Vegas ranked high above the rest.

“Everyone was smiling — true genuine smiles — about that incredible feeling of weightlessness,” Sembroski, a data engineer and Air Force veteran, said. “It was one of those moments where it doesn’t matter what kind of day you’re having or what you’re feeling.”

The Inspiration4 crew had its first zero-gravity training this weekend, enlisting the help of McCarran International Airport and Zero Gravity Corp., which specializes in weightless flights.

The SpaceX mission, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 15 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will mark the first time a group made up of entirely private citizens ventures into space. The four-person crew has undergone several simulations over the last four months culminating in their latest training Sunday.

Zero Gravity Corporation provided the roughly 90-minute training out of McCarran in a Boeing 727 plane. Along with serving the privatized space industry, the company offers consumer flights to anyone who wants to experience zero gravity.

“You can go to the airport and actually feel what it’s like to float weightless in space,” G-Force One pilot Dianna Polk, who flew the Inspiration4 crew, said.

Pilots fly in a series of parabolas to create the zero-gravity experience. Each parabola replicates the uphill climb of a roller coaster — gaining altitude to a peak, then forcing the plane down to create a sense of weightlessness that lasts about 20 seconds. During a consumer flight, a pilot will perform 15 parabolas amounting to nearly three minutes of weightlessness.

The Sunday training was focused on getting Inspiration4 crew members acclimated to the physiological effects of zero gravity — a primer for understanding the challenges of being in orbit, Sembroski said.

“It’s absolutely Newton’s law of how, for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction, and putting that into practical terms,” Sembroski said.

Zero Gravity Corporation currently works out of airports in 48 states, excluding Alaska and Hawaii, depending on market demand. Polk said they are looking to create a permanent location near McCarran due to a high number of requests.

“Space flight is here in Vegas,” Polk said.

For more information on Zero Gravity Corporation, visit www.gozerog.com.

Contact Mathew Miranda at mmiranda@reviewjournal.com. Follow mathewjmiranda on Twitter.

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