Harnessed to the walls, their surgical tools moored down with magnets, a team of French doctors are to attempt the world's first human operation in zero-gravity on Wednesday. It will serve as a test for performing surgery in space.
Working inside a custom-made operating block, three surgeons, backed by two anaesthetists and a team of army parachutists, will remove a fatty tumour from the forearm of an intrepid volunteer over the course of a three-hour flight.
Miniature surgical tools, held in place with magnets placed around the patient's stretcher, will be used to adapt to the reduced size of the operating theatre, which was designed by a French elevator manufacturer.
The European space plane, a specially-adapted Airbus A300 operated out of Bordeaux, flies in a series of roller-coaster like parabolas, creating between 20 and 22 seconds of weightlessness at the top of the curve, a process repeated around 30 times for a 3-hour flight.
As well as the challenge of working in zero gravity, the surgical team will have to halt their work each time the plane pulls out and gravity resumes.