Videos showing liquid spheres floating around in zero-gravity are fun, but also highlight the difficulty astronauts must face when trying to consume a drink in their normal working environment. Step forward Dr. Don Pettit, who has shot a video demonstrating a new type of cup used by those aboard the International Space Station, which appears to solve those potentially messy problems.
In the second episode of his Science Off the Sphere video series, where Dr. Pettit performs physics experiments which are only possible in a zero-gravity environment, he demonstrates the “zero-G cup”, which is an open-top container that uses a capillary action to stop the liquid spilling out.
This, along with the shape of the cup/bag sees the liquid rise up to the top, but crucially not over it, allowing it to be drunk as you would from a regular cup instead of from a sealed bag and a straw. The shape also funnels liquid to the top corner all the time, so it’s constantly replenished as you drink.
If you’re wondering where the inspiration for the zero-G cup came from, it’s actually adapted from the same technology used in rocket fuel tanks, which ensures the fuel is always near the pick-up point.
While some may question what’s wrong with the established bag/straw drinking option, Dr. Pettit explains — and the video clearly shows — that re-introducing the “normal” method of drinking liquids is important for the social aspect of life in an incredibly challenging environment.