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ISS Space Science

Microgravity Coffee Cup 88

BuzzSkyline writes "Despite the fact that astronauts have been eating and drinking out of tubes for decades, it's actually possible to drink from an open-top cup in space. Astronaut Don Pettit recently downlinked a video that shows him slurping coffee from a cup he kludged out of plastic sheet. It appears to work pretty much like a cup on Earth, even in freefall aboard the International Space Station, thanks to capillary action."
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Microgravity Coffee Cup

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  • Don Pettit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 26, 2012 @02:11AM (#39162345)

    Don Pettit is both the smartest and craziest man I've ever met.
    He's built all sorts of crazy gadgets in space.

    Years ago he took the space station's vacuum cleaner into reverse and rode around on it, Slim Pickins style through the space station.
    He also smelts his own metals in a forge in his back yard to make various things.

    • Re:Don Pettit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JWSmythe ( 446288 ) <> on Sunday February 26, 2012 @02:53AM (#39162467) Homepage Journal

          This is an excellent demonstration of why we need to further our space travel. It may seem trivial, but to get real advancements in space require people there. Theory is nice and all, but there's so much to learn from practice.

          A better example of what I'm saying is thrust. There are plenty of people on the ground theorizing about the bigger and better thrust systems. There are some neat ideas. People would be able to work through them faster by actually being there, and not only doing the specified projects, but their personal pet projects. For example, someone may discover that a windmill style device for turning solar winds into usable energy, and cosmic could be converted into some usable fuel.

          A cup is something. It's an example of what can be done from interest or necessity. Something that we're rapidly abandoning, as we watch manned space travel dwindle down to nothing.

      • I'm sorry but you are wrong and here is why: We have learned more about our system from a single NASA probe than from 40 years of /kicks on reverb/ "Meatbags in spaaaace!" /kills pedal/ because we meatbags are incredibly fragile creatures that have an insane amount of crap we have to have brought along with us, things like food, water, toilets, a place to sleep, all of this adds weight and with engines that frankly aren't really any more advanced than the old Saturn rockets its INSANELY expensive per pound

        • by cynyr ( 703126 )

          how about making the military buy any bombs over lets say 0.5 ton through a fundraiser, and give that money to NASA. I'll still fund the ammunition, bullets, cannon rounds, tank rounds, etc, just nothing that goes "BOOM!" Allow the military to petition for funds to buy a bomb on a case by case basis (This would really be "justify the use of the bomb they did use so as to get money to replace it", not actually have to get permission to use it, or the lead time to have one built.)

          I think the military could st

        • by fwarren ( 579763 )

          finally with the entire right wing signing Grover Norquist's "No new taxes on teh rich EVAR!" pledge good luck doing anything about the debt we are drowning in which means no more money for NASA, hell look at how many are having a shitfit at Obama calling to LOWER corporate taxes simply because he wants to close the loopholes that give companies like GE billions in return for nothing.

          Your really worried about the Republicans? Really?

          Take a look at the lay of the land. Texas and Northern Florida both elect Republicans. The with a Democratic Majority, anything space related starves republican communities and leads to the chance of more Democratic victories in the future.

          What the United States has left of a space program is being gutted by the Democrats. I would predict that the Republicans would re-fund NASA and the space sector. Not continue to strip it down as would happen if the Democr

          • You are forgetting folks are getting tired of spiraling debt and the teabaggers have won enough seats to become real thorns in the old party reps. Mark my words though none of it matters as we WILL have a nasty false flag pulled on us in the next 12 months, something that I'm betting will make the twin towers look like a bad joke, something they can use to lock down the net and throw dissenters into camps. Why is that? simple the Federal Reserve charter expires in 2013 and they know with all the hatred the

        • I'm sorry but you are wrong and here is why: We have learned more about our system from a single NASA probe than from 40 years of /kicks on reverb/ "Meatbags in spaaaace!" /kills pedal/

          So, you're saing V'ger is far superior in the advancement of human space travel, than the ISS and Space Shuttle programs? I find that, and the continued dialogue entertaining.

          We waste more in endless foreign wars, than we do for so many other things.

          Probes are nice and all, but t

      • ^

        I might ever lead to being able to build my own Twin Ion Engine spaceship

    • I couldn't agree more. The only thing I could add to this is that he who smelt it, dealt it... but I'm sure that 'experiment' has been done a lot up there already.

  • that's great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by YesIAmAScript ( 886271 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @02:13AM (#39162349)

    I didn't stop to think about the problem of getting the liquid to your mouth, I figured the hard part was getting it to go into and stay into the cup.

    • Especially without a Klein bottle [] coffee cup.

    • I thought for sure this story was going to be a dupe of a different solution to the drink-from-a-cup-in-microgravity problem: []

      I like the corkscrew cup better, personally. It looks 'cooler,' especially when it's full. The obvious issues are likely to be the weight-to-volume ratio difference between the cups, and the fact that the flexible cup shown in the current article collapses to a smaller volume for st
    • How about some knitting to go with your tea? []

      Pretty cool!

  • Coincidentally (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kell Bengal ( 711123 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @02:15AM (#39162355)
    This is also how manoeuvering thruster fuel tanks work, so that engines in microgravity get a continuous flow of fuel without need for ullage motors [].
  • "Why can't you use a regular cup in macrogravity?" I think I can, if I have a drinking straw.
  • by Vandil X ( 636030 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @02:29AM (#39162399)
    Rule 34, baby.
    • by Dyinobal ( 1427207 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @02:32AM (#39162411)
      You did not...See this is why we can't have nice things people! This is why we can't have nice things.
      • by EdIII ( 1114411 )

        Don't worry. This is the exception.

        Number one you can't film things like that in space.... well not right now due to policy... so it could change...

        Well don't forget about the fact that gravity does not exist on the space station too. Can you imagine what that would be like in a confined space? People curled up into tight little balls propelling themselves around. The horror...

        • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
          Gravity exists. But you are in free fall falling back towards the earth at exactly the same rate, so you don't perceive the effects of gravity. But "zero gee" does not mean the absence of gravity - only the absence of its observed effects.
          • by Tacvek ( 948259 )

            "0 g" is a specifier of acceleration magnitude (gravitational acceleration included).

            Except tidal forces[1] an object in an orbiting spacecraft experiences an external acceleration (relative to the craft) of exactly zero magnitude. When not ignoring them we get really small accelerations on the order of .000001g or 1 ug [2], hence microgravity.

            Furthermore for the purposes of local experiments, it is correct to treat the craft as a proper inertial reference frame, despite appearing substantially non-internal

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually you jest, but there is a video of two astro-naughties testing out which physical positions and acts would work in space... and NASA refuses to release the video(good thing IMHO) but basically doggy style was the only position that worked, since the guy could hold the girl's hips and thrust her that way. All other positions would require some special sleeping bag type solution where they would have handles on the inside.

      Of course this was done for scientific purposes... to see about future human rep

      • by TheLink ( 130905 )

        Of course this was done for scientific purposes... to see about future human reproduction...

        I would think that it would be a far better idea to build space stations with artificial gravity[1] and radiation shielding before trying human reproduction.

        These two items should be NASAs main priorities[2] if they really want humans in space. Otherwise they should pack-up and stop wasting time and resources.

        [1] Can be done by spinning stuff. The station does not have to be huge if tethers are used.
        [2] Figuring out a really cheap way to get into orbit would be nice too, but as long as we do not have the fi

      • See? Useful research! Humans are still very much needed up there to come up with ideas that yield tangible rewards. No one can claim that it isn't valuable to learn something new about something as essential to space exploration as thrust.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's also dependent on surface tension. Surface tension is what makes liquids form balls of fluid in zero gee. The gap is too great in the cup for mere capillary action to contain it I'd even say it's more dependent on surface tension than capillary action.

  • Well! This is a refreshing story!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is the second time Don Pettit has made a video about these cups. The first time was in 2008:

  • A Matter of Timing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MacGyver2210 ( 1053110 ) on Sunday February 26, 2012 @02:42AM (#39162441)

    If you had a cup of coffee every morning on the Space Station, your heart would probably explode.

    (the sun 'rises' every ~90 minutes for the ISS)

  • Ah, Capillary Action.

    The source of all of my science fair projects.

  • Watching that video made me want to be an astronaut again. Haven't felt that way in a long time. We need cheap, publicly available space flight in the next 50 years or I'm gonna be very disappointed.

  • What they're not telling you is that before coffee, they experimented with Red Bull. It turns out it gives you wings but despite being in a compressed air microgravity environment, the whole equal and opposite reaction thing messed up the flight too much.
  • Astronaut Don Pettit recently downlinked a video that shows him slurping coffee from a cup he kludged out of plastic sheet.

    Astronaut Don Knotts has proved that it is also possible to eat peanut butter and crackers while in a microgravity environment.

  • This just reinforces what a waste of time and money the current space program is. Yeah, it is somewhat inspirational to have humans up there at all. But terribly impractical.

    In the 20th century, humans were the most compact computers & manipulators for these missions. But that is no longer the case.

    It's ironic that we send people up for near-earth-orbit missions (which could be controlled from the ground with sub-second latency), while we send robots on the long missions (which would benefit most from a

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's a waste of money too!

      We should just live in caves and bang rocks together!

  • They must really bo bored up there: his collegue created a lego replica of the ISS... within the ISS [].

    Pretty cool, I think.

    • by Megane ( 129182 )
      ...and you thought stepping on a Lego was bad? He had to build it in a glovebox so that the parts wouldn't fly around and get lost inside stuff.
  • ...that he doesn't spill the coffee in his lap while up there. Oh wait...
  • Howard Wolowitz is very jealous.

  • If you're interested in modeling this phenomenon you can do so using the Laplace-Young equation: []

    I did part of my Master's thesis using it... for some examples see here: []

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky