IL-76 MDK is a specially modified cargo plane, used
by the Russian Space Agency for zero-gravity training,
and for the transporting of crew and equipment to shuttle
launch sites. The IL-76 was designed for rapid transportation
of large-size cargos and equipment in different geographical
latitudes. It's many-wheeled chassis, powerful wing
design and high-power capability allows it to take off
and land in short distances. If necessary, it can easily
takeoff from unprepared dirt airstrips.
What It's Like:
Cosmonaut for a Day
~by adventure travel photographer Max Dereta
"I got the chance to find out how it [living on
Mir] actually feels - in the zero-g simulator - a Russian
IL-76 MDK aircraft better known as the Flying Laboratory.
This plane goes up and makes a series of exotic parabolic
maneuvers in the sky to simulate zero gravity for its
occupants. Each one lasts approximately 25 seconds.
I go up with 11 others, eight men and three women,
from Italy, Holland, Malaysia and the US. "Get
ready", says a voice on the loudspeaker and suddenly
invisible forces press us all to the floor. For a few
seconds we feel twice as heavy as normal and then we
all rise from the floor majestically, totally weightless.
We float all over the airplane bouncing into each other,
the walls and the ceiling. One woman pushes herself
off the wall and then flies the length of the cabin,
while another performs mid-air forward rolls...
"Twenty-five seconds. Get down!" Abruptly,
the zero-g ends and we all tumble to the floor. The
maneuver is repeated 10 times before we return to Chalovsk
airport. The total time we've spent in zero gravity
was just under four minutes, but every second was an
Note: This adventure requires one full day and certification
of good health.
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