A couple flew like Superman and floated upside down to say their wedding vows on Saturday, as Zero Gravity Corporation hosted the world’s first-ever weightless wedding. Noah Fulmor and Erin Finnegan were married on June 20 among family and friends who were all on board ZERO-G’s G-FORCE One, a specially modified Boeing 727. Officiating the wedding was Richard Garriott, the sixth private explorer in history to go to space, and the first second-generation U.S. astronaut. “I am honored to be taking part in Erin and Noah’s wedding. I know firsthand the added thrill microgravity will play in their already joyous event,” said Garriott. “The excitement from these first ever microgravity nuptials will not soon fade in the minds of all the members of the wedding party.”
The plane flies in parabolas to provide 20-30 seconds of zero g at a time. Over the span of nearly eight minutes, the vows and rings were exchanged in a microgravity environment. The aircraft’s interior has padded floors and walls and video cameras to record the the experience.
Virgin Galactic and Rocketplane Global have announced they plan on offering space weddings when their respective spaceplanes head to suborbital space, (Virgin Galactic hopes to begin their public flights to space in 2010) but for now, ZERO-G is the only way to experience true weightlessness without going to space.
Before starting a parabola, G-FORCE ONE flies level to the horizon at an altitude of 24,000 feet. The pilots then begins to pull up, gradually increasing the angle of the aircraft to about 45° to the horizon reaching an altitude of 34,000 feet. During this pull-up, passengers will feel the pull of 1.8 Gs. Next the plane is “pushed over” to create the zero gravity segment of the parabola. For the next 20-30 seconds everything in the plane is weightless. Next a gentle pull-out is started which allows the flyers to stabilize on the aircraft floor. This maneuver is repeated 12-15 times, each taking about ten miles of airspace to perform.
Fulmor and Finnegan are both space enthusiasts, and both wanted to be astronauts as children. Erin attended space camp in Michigan, while Noah volunteered at his local planetarium. Although they are currently living relatively earth-bound lives, the idea of space came up again following their engagement in 2008.
“When we started talking about marriage, Noah joked that we should have our wedding ‘in space,'” Erin said. “Although most girls would take this to mean Noah didn’t want to get married, I knew he was sincere, and that this was a serious request.”
The wedding took place in the skies above Florida. ZERO-G has flights that depart from Bristow Air Center in Titusville, Florida, the Shuttle Landing Facility at Cape Canaveral in Florida and from the Signature Air Terminal at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.