Falling Prices

I was watching a science program that was discussing gravity. Of course, they had to speak of the opposite, which is freefall or zero G. So they whipped out what the astronauts used to call the Vomit Comet, a commercial jet liner whose interior was stripped out. People go for rides on the plane and experience short periods of zero G as the pilot performs serpentine movement with the plane. As the plane goes up, passengers feel their weight enhanced and as it descends, the passengers feel a lack of weight. Weightless. Freefall. Zero G.

I thought to myself that this sounded like a pretty cool ride to take and so I went to the web to check out the website of the company that provides this service. What once was reserved for astronaut training has become a traveling event for civilians. Zero G sens their airplane on a circuit to the major cities, and thus make their rides available to more than visitors in a single city. I thought to myself that a ticket from Spokane to New York was about $400 to $500, so a trip on the Vomit Comet would be maybe half of that. Au Contraire, mon frere. It costs Five Thousand Dollars for a 90 minute trip that offers 15 little 20 – 30 second spates of weightlessness. Holy crap.

Okay, so it turned out to be a lot more money that I suspected. But sometimes scientific recreation can be pricey. I’m sure that it took a few million bucks to buy the plane and outfit it, then they have crew and ground personnel. I’ll bet there’s a hefty insurance premium in there somewhere too. Last, you don’t park those big planes for free, and most of the airports they utilize have hefty usage fees. I can see how the costs might get a bit high for each of those rides.

If you’d like to experience weightlessness, there is another way to do it that is bound to be a lot easier on the old pocketbook. Freefall tunnels. These are wind tunnels stood on end, and people use them to practice sky diving. They’re pretty expensive, running about four grand per hour. But no one can tolerate an hour of the wind tunnel, it’s too exhausting. So it is cut into 5 minute periods that people can fly during. At around $250 for that five minutes, you’re going to experience 5 whole minutes of freefall all at once rather than about 5 minutes of freefall cut into 15 little events. I was a little surprised at the cost to build freefall tunnels. They’re in competition with a flight ready jet liner. It turns out that it costs about the same to operate a jet and a wind tunnel.

I’ll take the longer version for $250 over the short hops version for $5000 every time;