"Swimsuit 2014: Zero Gravity" with Kate Upton. Cape Canaveral, Fla., USA (5/18/2013) Credit: James Macari/Sports Illustrated
Parabolic flights are used for a myriad of scientific and not-so-scientific zero-gravity experiments, but this has to be one of the more glamorous uses for G-Force One, a converted Boeing-727 owned and operated by Zero-G Corporation.
In a special photo shoot published in this month’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2014, gold bikini-clad model/actress Kate Upton and her production team braved the loss of gravity, for 17 parabolas 34,000 feet over Florida, until their mission was complete.
This isn’t the first extreme modeling assignment Upton has faced. In December 2012, the 21 year-old braved the bone-chilling climate of Antarctica, wearing just a bikini for warmth. At least this time Upton didn’t risk frostbite for the perfect shot.
“The ZERO-G experience was really exhilarating for everyone involved,” said MJ Day, editor of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, in a press release. “We have been almost everywhere in the past 50 years with SI Swimsuit, but we have never done anything like this. It was certainly the most out-of-the-box shoot. Once again, Kate surprised us all with how she handled modeling in weightlessness.”
Although unprecedented, this isn’t the only alternative use Zero-G Corp has seen.
In 2011, a joint venture between Saber Astronautics and 4-Pines Brewery asked Astronauts4Hire to use G-Force One for a parabolic beer-tasting experience. Yes, beer tasting. In an effort to understand how the taste of different types of beer changes in zero-gravity, the researchers discovered that the optimized “space beer” should be a reduced carbonation stout. Apparently, that is the perfect balance that retains the beers flavor while avoiding the dreaded zero-G “wet burp.”* The first bona fide brewed for space beer was therefore born and Saber Astronautics and 4-Pines Brewery named it “Vostok.”
Previous zero-G “Weightless Wonders” flights operated by NASA gained notoriety for their stomach-churning nature and became known as the “vomit comets.” Fortunately, Zero-G Corporation has perfected the art of parabolic flights for the general public, making it a much less vomit-inducing experience. And judging by Upton’s photos, she took to zero-G like a true professional.
You can see the full photo set (and behind the scenes video) of Upton getting to grips with tumbling around inside G-Force One, while pulling off the perfect poses, in the online version of Swimsuit 2014.
So what’s next for Upton? She’s braved sub-zero temperatures and zero-Gs, perhaps she should go full-science and investigate the world of high-energy physics?
“Kate Upton posed in Antarctica, now the Vomit Comet. My next vote for swimsuiting science is the #LHC at @CERN,” tweeted scientist and former international model Joanne Manaster. If it promotes science, then I couldn't agree more!
*A wet burp occurs if an astronaut belches in zero gravity after drinking a carbonated liquid. Lacking the gravity to separate the liquid from the gas, the gas expands in the stomach only to be expelled, plus fluid, as a wet burp. Not pretty.