SMITH: Thursday Sam gets to go weightless

NASA Thursday will take Maria Carrillo alum Sam Avery up — and down, and up, and down — on an astronomically rare jet flight.

Sam, who's 21 and an aeronautical engineering major at UC San Diego, leads a team of undergrads who impressed NASA with their proposal for a zero-gravity experiment.

In Houston, they'll board a specially equipped jet that will take them aloft and then climb and fall like a roller-coaster, creating zero-gravity conditions on the dips.

Sam said by phone he expects to go weightless for about 20 seconds each time the jet descends, and to be free to tumble in mid-air like astronauts do. But he and his team will be up there primarily to conduct experiments on how tiny amounts of biofuels burn in zero-gravity.

Sam shared that his longer term goal is to "design and manufacture the spacecraft that I would go to space in."

There's one more thing he'll do Thursday as he roller-coasters high in the sky. He'll shout out a weightless Happy Birthday to his mom, Lee, in Santa Rosa.

COLLEEN'S NOTE to the public library in Petaluma said she's going into the third grade "and I am donating twenty five dollars. I earned it by having a lemonade stand with my friends."

"I love to read," the kid wrote. "I hope you put this money to good use. Very good use."

Uplifted librarians vow they will.

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