One of the most fascinating aspects of manned space flight is the state of zero gravity or weightlessness: astronauts and objects floating in air. But it is only recently that this extraordinary 'by-product' of the space programme has been recognised as a rich scientific resource, with a multitude of experiments queuing up for the space agencies' parabolic flight programmes and for the new International Space Station. To date, the aesthetic possibilities of zero gravity have barely been explored, in part due to the exclusiveness of the environment, accessible only to astronauts and scientists.
In September 2001, the Arts Catalyst took a group of London and Russian artists, scientists and philosophers to Star City, Russia, to undertake projects in zero gravity, utilising the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre's parabolic flight programme.
The Russian Federation is a nation with a large space programme. To carry out this programme it is necessary to train cosmonauts in real conditions of space flight - zero gravity. To achieve zero gravity in earth conditions, the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre uses the flight of a special flying laboratory - the Ilyushin-76 MDK - on a parabolic trajectory. They have extensive experience of these flights. The IL-76 MDK is a very large aircraft specially adapted for parabolic flight.
After the parabolic fligh, Flow Motion gave a free concert of electronic music for the people of Star City at the Cosmonauts Club.
London and Russian artists and scientists selected for the MIR flight 001 (some flying, some ground-based) were: