Scientists defy gravity for weightless experiments

MERIGNAC, FRANCE (REUTERS) - These researchers are pulling their weight for science.

Inside the Zero-G plane, that can create zero gravity conditions for 22 seconds, these French national space agency scientists test equipment for use on future space missions.

Together with French company Novespace they are studying the impact of microgravity.

"We have research teams on board which try to study phenomena which cannot be studied when on the ground because those phenomena are hidden by the force of gravity," said Novespace director Thierry Gharib. "So that's why we give them the possibility to go weightless and see what happens with fluid physics, human physiology, biology."

Zero gravity is achieved by the so called parabolic flight of the plane - ascending at a sharp 50 degree angle and reaching a certain altitude before free-falling over an arc following the earth's curvature.

Inside the aircraft, experiments take place to help astronauts grow plants on future trips to Mars.

"We are trying to see how drops of water behave when weightless, the drops will be bigger than those when on Earth, they will move slower, something that you can't do with Earth's gravity," said Mr Laucas Pinol, a student at French space research centre CNES.

Here scientists use virtual reality goggles to improve communication in space where the sense of direction gets lost.

The scientists hope that their contributions will help astronauts stay afloat during tricky situations when help is far and away.