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Preparing for space travel

September 18, 2016. Four participants changed into flight uniforms at an airport in Aichi, Japan. A Japanese venture firm has allowed paying customers to experience what it feels like to travel in space. The fledgling astronauts boarded a small jet and flew over the Sea of Japan at an altitude of almost 9,000 meters. The training flight was organized by PD Aerospace, a company based in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture.

Before the flight, the participants underwent rigorous medical screenings that included 54 separate tests including cardiopulmonary functions and a sense of balance to make sure their health was in good condition for the flight. The list was based on tests astronauts undergo for stays aboard the International Space Station. Advice was also given from organizations such as the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Okayama University.

At an altitude of about 9,000 meters, the plane’s engine was throttled back to create weightlessness for about 20 seconds allowing them to experience zero gravity environment. They experienced the weightless environment a total of 7 times while trying to write on boards and taking photographs.

The flight and medical checks cost around 950,000 yen, or roughly 9,300 US dollars. The Japanese government supports the business in the new field. Cabinet Office officials believe this is the first service of its kind in Japan.

The company CEO Shuji Ogawa aims to develop a new space transporter shaped like an aircraft that people can ride into space for just thousands of dollars. He said he wants to develop a new vehicle on which families can travel into space. He said with the launch of this new service, his firm has taken a small step toward that goal. The company plans to provide the service once every 4 months.