Europe plans to enter the fledgling space tourism market by offering a chance to experience weightlessness to help pay for scientific research.

Novespace, a unit of France’s CNES space agency claims to be leading the field in scientific deployment with a converted Airbus A300 jetliner. With Europe’s space ambitions facing a budget squeeze due to the weak economy, the plan to mix science with adventure was unveiled in a “zero G” flight for European space agency chiefs on a converted Airbus jet.

Passengers feel twice their normal weight during the steep climb and descent but experience 22 seconds of weightlessness along the crest of the arc when engine power is sharply reduced.

The Novespace ticket sales would not aim to make a profit but would help sponsor research carried on board. The price tag would be 3,000 euros ($3,900) for 30 parabolas or 22-second bursts of weightlessness – 11 minutes in all.

Trips like these are pretty affordable and cost a fraction of the $30-35 million paid by wealthy individuals for the ultimate ride into orbit. But the only difference with weightlessness as felt in space is the time spent afloat !

Source : Reuters