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Man in grey flying suit in front of large planeKevin Fong in front of Illyushin-76 MDK Zero Gravity aircraft, MIR Flight 001, Star City, Russia, 2001. Photo: The Arts Catalyst

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:

Anna Alchuk, artist and poet

Ansuman Biswas, artist and musician

Alexei Blinov, engineer and member of Raylab

Anthony Bull, biomechanics scientist, Imperial College London

Jem Finer, artist and musician

Kevin Fong, doctor, lecturer in space medicine, University College London

Edward George, musician and member of Flow Motion

Andrew Kotting, film director

Trevor Mathison, musician and member of Flow Motion

Judith Palmer, freelance journalist

Anna Piva, musician and member of Flow Motion

Mikhail Ryklin, scientist and philosopher

Morag Wightman, dancer

Louise K Wilson, artist

Andrey and Julia Velikanov, artists

Resulting projects

Gravity: A Love Story - Morag Wightman & Craos Mor

Zero Genies - Jem Finer & Ansuman Biswas

Wave Particle - Jem Finer & Ansuman Biswas

Kosmos in Blue - Flow Motion

Too G - Andrew Kotting

Universal Substitute - Andrei & Julia Velikanov