Where to start when there are so many great memories and feelings from this very special day. I still feel like I’m floating above the clouds.
There we got our flight suit for that day. I was part of team Moon. It was an international team with members from Germany, Greece, England (a pilot), Colombia (a pilot), Austria, Costa Rica and of course from The Netherlands. In total there were 31 men and only 9 women. 12 people were lucky enough to get selected by CNES (outreach and teaching). When I heard that Vladimir was our instructor I was very delighted. He is such a great guy. He greeted me friendly and we talked for a while. I had a chance to take a picture of him with our spacemascotte SpaceHuggie.
I also talked with Olivier our guy in the orange overall (security officer). A lot op people asked questions about the bear and were impressed by all his travels. Jean-Francois recognised SpaceHuggie immediately (he even made sure he was clearly visible on the group photo).
After some drinks and breakfast there was a briefing about the flight. Vladimir mostly talked about the do’s and dont’s and our programme. For 22 seconds of heaven you have 40 seconds of pain (a little bit exaggerated). Before and after weightlesness there is a period where you experience 2G. And I know now that’s quite heavy. The neck has problems with keeping the extra heavy head steady. That’s why you have to lie down in that phase and look at a fixed point. And even more important at the end of the weightlesness phase it’s very important you are feet down. Otherwise you land on your head. But luckily we have Vladimir and Olivier who will help you with a firm hand. It happened to me once.
The pilot presented the different phases of the flight. They count in French: 2 minutes, 30 seconds (still in English), trente, quarante, injection (and then you’re weightless). Then it’s quarante, trente and vingt. At trente it’s essential you have your feet down. Suddenly there’s gravity again and you fall heavily on the bottom of the plane. After you hear the sound of the processor you can sit again. The pilot was a test pilot whit lots of experience. He experienced 6G in his aircraft. The Airbus could deal with a maximum of 2,5G. The flight was assigned a special fly zone (one south of England and one above the Mediterrean Sea) with assigned air traffic controller (military). We had the smoothest landing I’ve ever experienced. The main difference between the Martian and Lunar paraboles and the 0G paraboles is the angle of the parabola.
There was also a short presentation by Jean-Francois Clervoy and the director of Novespace. They discovered a scratch on the plane and they were waiting for a response from Airbus so they had clearance to fly. That’s why we took off a half hour later (around noon).
After some drinks and a toilette break (very important, because there are no toilets on board) we got the boarding passes (the coolest I ever got) and went through airport security. We made a photo before the plane and Vladimir explained some more on board the plane. Then it was time for lift off. The plane climbed steeper than any other plane at take off. After 20 minutes we could go to our designated area in the plane. For every parabola there was a plan (free time, or fly like superman, sit like Batman on the ceiling, playing with balls and water), but you were free to do whatever you wanted. The first parabola was a Martian one. That’s already weird. You’re feeling very light and you’re able to do push ups with no effort. The second and third one are ones with Lunar gravity. You can walk like the moonwalkers and when somebody grabbed you, you were launched to the ceiling. Really weird. My feet automatically started to do swimming motions to gain control. But as Vladimir explained you have to let go and ‘slow is fast’. A finger can push you to the other side.The first weightlesness parabola was amazing. You float immediately to the ceiling. After a while you notice that your head is lost. It can’t keep up with your body.
I tried a lot of things Vladimir suggested but most of the time I ended up in the net and landed on other people. Every parabola was too short. I wanted it to go on and on. Sitting on the ceiling and doing somersaults were the best part. And taking a group photo with our team.
We had lunch (with great Bordeaux wine and champagne) and then the diploma ceremony. Jean-Francois presented his experiences as an astronaut. But it was mainly in French and I was soo exhausted I didn’t understand everything.
At 5 o’clock it was time to go to the airport for my return trip (Paris-Schiphol-Utrecht-Maastricht).