NASA’s sci-fi space cup holds a drink without gravity

Astronauts might have enjoyable ingesting drinks like Pac-Man gobbles snack pellets: releasing some droplets out of a bag then swallowing them up earlier than they float away.

But it surely’s not too environment friendly. The standard methodology — placing a straw in a specifically sealed pouch Capri Solar-style — is not essentially the most pleasant manner of quenching one’s thirst, both.

Over the previous few years, NASA has been engaged on a space cup(Opens in a new tab) that retains liquid as a substitute, even with an open high. The expertise is bettering life for astronauts dwelling within the weightless atmosphere aboard the Worldwide Space Station whereas giving scientists new insights into how one can design different plumbing techniques in space.



Your subsequent pores and skin cream might come from NASA’s outer space science

A current demo by astronaut Nicole Mann might appear like magic, however the cup is leveraging the properties of fluid dynamics to imitate gravity. Within the video beneath, posted to Twitter on March 2, Mann pipes a cappuccino into the particular vessel, then offers it a light spin to point out how the recent drink stays inside the cup, even because it flips over.

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Scientists engaged on the machine as a part of the Capillary Flow Experiment(Opens in a new tab) say the cup capabilities much like these on Earth by harnessing the mixed results of floor stress, so-called “wetting” circumstances, and cup geometry. Wetting is the time period for the way a liquid maintains contact with a stable floor once they’re introduced collectively.

The cup has at the least one channel operating from backside to rim. Capillary motion between the drink and the wall of the cup permits the beverage to creep alongside the channel and be near the rim. Solely a small quantity of the drink goes into the channel whereas the remainder of the liquid stays on the backside via capillary forces, in line with a paper(Opens in a new tab) revealed in Nature Microgravity final yr.

When astronauts put their lips in opposition to it, the liquid spontaneously will get drawn into their mouths. They’ll then management how huge of a gulp they obtain by altering their mouth form and suction.

Space cups can maintain liquids without a lid in microgravity via capillary motion.
Credit score: NASA

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Capillary motion occurs as a result of water is kind of sticky, which means its molecules like to remain collectively. It is the identical phenomenon that permits plants and trees(Opens in a new tab) to attract water up from their roots and a paper towel dipped in water can draw the wetness upward, seemingly defying gravity’s pull.

Astronaut Don Pettit helped invent the cup(Opens in a new tab) throughout his tenure on the space station. He shares the patent, granted in 2011(Opens in a new tab), with physicist Mark Weislogel and two mathematicians, Paul Concus and Robert Finns.

Varied rounds of experiments have led to astronauts ingesting bubble-free water, limeade, fruit punch, cocoa, espresso, and peach-mango smoothie out of the space cups. One impromptu second led to Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, proven on the high of this story, taking her space cup stuffed with espresso into the space station cupola.

Astronaut using a space cup


Astronaut Kjell Lindgren prepares to drink from a space cup.
Credit score: NASA

That did not go over so effectively in Houston.

“For security and design engineers on the bottom, this occasion was met with preliminary alarm giving method to muted appreciation. A scalding drink (espresso) was consumed from an open container (Space Cup) in a ‘clear’ spacecraft atmosphere (ISS cupola) — a triple violation,” the authors wrote within the paper. “However the nature of the ‘plumbing’ resolution of the cup was earth-like sufficient as to go with restricted concern.”

Experiments with the cup have concerned deliberately spilling drinks, which astronauts discovered have been simpler to comprise than comparable spills on Earth. You heard that proper: It is safer to drink espresso subsequent to a pc in space than on the bottom, in line with these researchers(Opens in a new tab).

Astronauts say the challenge has improved the imbibing expertise, permitting them to odor their drink as they sip, which may dramatically affect the way it tastes.

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