Zero G

The actor George Takei goes weightless. Many celebrities, including Stephen Hawking, Buzz Aldrin, Peter Jackson, Kate Upton and Martha Stewart have taken the flight.

Space tourism is close to becoming a reality — if you have a spare $250,000 just burning a hole in your pocket.

Virgin Galactic, owned by Sir Richard Branson, and Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos may be flying non-astronauts into space by next year with that hefty price tag. But until then, you can get a sense of what it’s like to be in weightlessness right here on Earth. Or actually, just above it.

For 16 years, Zero-G has been offering passengers the chance to experience simulated weightlessness through a flight on a modified Boeing 727 aircraft. The plane flies in parabolic arcs, at the top of which passengers inside the plane experience weightlessness for nearly 30 seconds.

“At the apex of the arcs, you and the plane are actually in free fall, just like a skydiver,” said Matt Gohd, the company’s CEO. “But since you’re falling at the same rate as the vehicle around you, your senses can’t tell that you’re falling and so your brain is tricked into thinking you’re floating.”

Because of Covid-19, Zero-G’s 2020 schedule had to be revised. The first opportunity for people to get weightless will be this Sunday, Aug. 16, at the Long Beach Airport. Other cities the company will be visiting include San Jose, Seattle, Las Vegas, Newark, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

“We have a long history of flying out of Long Beach," Gohd said. “This has been a key stop for the plane for a long time.”

The flights offered by Zero-G continue to be the only Federal Aviation Administration-approved opportunities in the U.S. for individuals to experience true weightlessness. The company’s updated health and safety plan includes pre-flight pulse and temperature checks, as well as the use of personal protective equipment provided by ZERO-G. Additionally, the company has reduced flight capacities by 30%, meaning 24 floaters, not 36, are allowed during a flight.

And while it won’t cost a person a quarter of a million dollars, you will spend $6,700. The experience includes breakfast, flight training, 15 periods of weightlessness, a flight suit, a branded mask, a certificate of weightless completion and photos and video.

“I have an extraordinarily expensive business,” Gohd said. “We are a mini-airline that is still subject to FAA regulations. It’s crazy expensive. But it’s a function of getting the plane here and getting an experience.”

Following a career on Wall Street, Gohd took over as CEO last December. He has floated six times and says the experience is unbelievable. But he says watching other people for the first time is like nothing else: “You are floating in the middle of the cabin and you don’t know what is up or down.”

Gohd did admit that about 1% of flyers experience airsickness, but in most cases, it is because the person drank the night before or didn’t eat the breakfast served to them.

“It is not a roller coaster,” he said. “It’s a transition from positive to negative gravity. It is very gentle. It’s not disorienting.”

Zero-G never does more than two flights a day. Gohd wasn’t sure how many people were going to float out of Long Beach.

Gohd said the pilots are highly trained and they don’t fly for anyone else. After the plane takes off, it flies in what is called a military box — an area that is 100 miles long and 10 miles wide. Depending on air traffic, the plane may have to fly 20 miles to the west, for example, but then that area is designated for the Zero-G plane.

“The demand for what we do is extraordinary,” he said. “For me as a kid, growing up and watching people in space, this is the one obtainable experience you will remember for the rest of your life.”

For more information about all upcoming flights, visit www.gozerog.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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