Coffee in space: NASA designed an open-top cup that works in zero gravity

3d printed space cup nasa
Life in zero gravity is much different than life on Earth. Not only do we Earth-dwellers get to walk, jump, and run without the fear of floating off into space, we also get to enjoy both the taste and the smell of drinking hot coffee from a mug. Astronauts on the International Space Station don’t have this luxury and must drink their coffee using a straw that draws the liquid out of a closed container. This diminished coffee experience may change for the astronauts thanks to a new 3D-printed cup designed to help NASA study the behavior of fluids in microgravity.

The idea for studying coffee and other liquids consumed in space surfaced after Italian European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti received an espresso machine. The opportunity to study capillary flow, liquid containment, and low-gravity fluid dynamics was too great to pass up. A team of researchers was assembled by NASA, and they went to work designing six different transparent polymer cups for use on the space station.

Five of the cups hold 150ml, while the sixth, a smaller 60ml vessel, was designed specifically for holding espresso. The cups were shaped with a crease to hold the drink in place so it doesn’t spill and create a hazardous situation inside the spacecraft’s cabin. It holds the liquid steady even when the astronaut flips or tosses the cup. Though the crease contains the liquid, it has a dual purpose: It also allows the liquid to move out of the glass via surface tension when the astronauts want to drink. “Wetting conditions and the cup’s special geometry create a capillary pressure gradient that drives the liquid forward toward the face of the drinker,” said mechanical engineering professor Mark Weislogel of Portland State University. “An astronaut can drain the cup in sips or one long gulp in much the same manner as on Earth.”

Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui and NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren have been using the cups to drink both hot and cold beverages. The astronauts were surprised that they worked and were overall pleased with the drinking experience, says the researchers. Responses to the new cups include, “Hey, you can smell the coffee,”and “This is eerily like drinking on Earth.” The NASA-lead team presented the initial results of this capillary flow experiment during this week’s annual meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics in Boston.

Health & Fitness

In search of the fountain of youth, beauty companies turn to tech

Beauty tech is a fairly new concept, but at CES 2019, companies such as Olay, L’Oreal, and Neutrogena were fully embracing it with all kinds of gadgets that promise to give you glowing skin.
Smart Home

Brew it fast, hot, and flavorful with our favorite coffee makers

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.

Self-driving, electric, and connected, the cars of CES 2019 hint at the future

Car companies remained surprisingly quiet during CES 2018. But they spoke up in 2019. From electric hatchbacks you can buy in 2019 to super-futuristic mood-detecting technology, here are the major announcements we covered during the event.
Emerging Tech

Researchers discover a way to make 3D printing 100 times faster using light

Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a new method of 3D printing which is up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D-printing processes. Here's how it works and why it could prove a game-changer for 3D printing.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.