One moment I am my normal self, lying flat on my back, gazing at the ceiling. The next moment, I am released. My body drifts up from the floor, and there is no force on me at all from any direction.
I’m out over the Gulf of Mexico in G-Force One, a vintage Boeing 727 that belongs to the Zero Gravity Corporation. The plane, which provides scientists and thrill-seekers with the chance to experience weightlessness without going to space, has just seven rows of seats, way at the back. Instead there’s 66 feet of wide open space, the better to make the most of the kind of acrobatic flying that shakes passengers loose from gravity.
Around me, my fellow fliers quickly take advantage of weightlessness. Sixty-nine-year-old Bobbe, floating in the middle of the fuselage, curls up and tries a somersault. I scramble like a cartoon character who has raced off a cliff, arms and legs pinwheeling just before the fall.
I push myself up off the floor, and bam!, the ceiling whacks me on the back. You can be told a hundred times how little effort it takes to move when you’re weightless, but to actually calibrate it, to figure it out, you have to be in it. I grab for one of the guide ropes, and miss.
“Feet down!” yells a crew member named Robert. “Coming out!”
I don’t quite make it to the floor before gravity grabs me hard, but without a sound. The physics of these flights is such that we go from weighing nothing—from zero G—to feeling like we weigh close to twice what we normally do. At two G, you have a sensation of being pinned down.
The last 27 seconds have been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Few others have had that chance.
But that’s about to change: Weightlessness is not only about to be democratized. It’s about to become a lifestyle.