Postcard from... Paris


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The Independent Online

Weightlessness is coming to Paris. This week it was announced that the sensation of zero-gravity can be purchased for a price of €5,980 (£4,852) a flight.

Novespace, an affiliate of CNES, The National Centre for Space Education, will be offering the experience from Paris's Bourget airport, beginning on 15 March. The cost equals that of a business-class trip from the capital to Chicago and lasts a total of two-and-a-half hours.

The effect is created by a series of what the company calls parabolas. At 6,100 metres the plane rises at a 47 degree angle and then cuts its engines at 8,000 metres, instigating the weightlessness. Motor-less, the plane climbs a further 500 metres, levels out and then drops, before the pilot restarts the engines at 7,800 metres.

Each flight will include 15 of these rise and falls. The first simulates Martian gravity (a third of normal weight), the next two replicate lunar gravity (a sixth of normal weight) and the other twelve – zero gravity. The whole experience provides in total five minutes of weightlessness.

One flyer recounted how his first impulse was to pedal his arms and legs like a swimmer, yet this was met with cries of "Pointless!" from laughing engineers and instructors. Another summarised the sensation as "your body emptying itself of its own weight".

The business has already taken off in both the US and Russia, but not without ensuring passenger safety. Every flight has an on-board doctor to help customers avoid a very unique type of travel nausea – space-sickness.