There’s a point on all roller coasters when you crest a hill and, for a heartbeat, you’re weightless. It’s the reason we ride coasters.
Well, I saw a story the other day in Popular Science about a new kind of coaster where you’d be weightless for eight seconds.
Count it out: one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi….
Eight seconds of weightless would last forever.
Right now, the zero-gravity coaster exists only on paper, but according to Popular Science, there’s a company in Southern California called BRC Imagination Arts that’s ready to build it. Cut them a check today, the story says, and you’ll have your coaster by next Christmas.
BRC isn’t some fly-by-night outfit. When I worked in newspapers, I covered the theme-park industry, and I met BRC’s founder, Bob Rogers, a few times. He’s whip-smart and really clever. BRC’s worked on everything from the Test Track pavilion at Epcot to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. These guys know what they’re doing, and if Bob Rogers says he can build a coaster where you’re weightless for eight seconds, I believe him.
Here’s what he told Popular Science about the proposed coaster:
You’d sit in a capsule rather than an open car, so there’d be no wind and no visual cues telling you you’re moving. You’d be strapped in, but loosely.
The track would be shaped like a giant letter “L.” You’d rocket along the track then curve straight up, like the Superman coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain.
You’d climb at about 100 m.p.h., and as you neared the top, the capsule would slightly but suddenly decelerate. You’d be thrown out of your seat, like a stone from a slingshot, but the capsule would instantly match your speed.
You would, in effect, be floating inside the capsule.
After a moment, you’d begin to fall, but so would the capsule, matching your speed on the way down and eventually slowing so that you settled back in your cushioned seat.
By the time the coaster came to a stop, you would have experienced weightlessness for eight long seconds.
If you were to fly NASA’s “Vomit Comet,” the plane the space agency uses to train astronauts, you would experience weightlessness for 25 seconds.
Popular Science says ordinary coasters cost about $30 million but BRC’s zero-gravity coaster would cost $50 million, which sounds like a lot — heck, that is a lot — but Disney spent a reported $100 million to build Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom a few years ago. Fifty million dollars to a theme-park developer is nothing.
I have no idea whether when or whether anyone will actually build BRC’s zero-gravity coaster. I have no idea whether it’s a smart for untrained civilians to be subjected to eight seconds of weightlessness.
But if someone builds it, I’ll volunteer to test the thing, as many times as it takes.