Nov 24, 2008

Astronauts Want Coffee in Space, Not Piss

In space, there is no way to keep liquids in check, once they escape the sealed bags and pouches they are transported in. Astronauts must eat very specifically calculated food, food which will stick to utensils or which can be eaten through a straw. Much research has been done to allow for the astronauts, especially the ones that have to live aboard the International Space Station for extended periods of time, to enjoy a varied, nutritious, and delicious diet, without risking the highly sensitive experiments and equipment. Whereas the early cosmonauts and astronauts had to wolf down some re-hydrated nasty shit, these days they have actual dishes to enjoy, such as these below.

They do not look too bad huh? Beverages come in the same types of pouches and are drunk through straws. That includes hot drinks such as coffee and tea. One astronaut, Don Pettit, loves his coffee, and has figured out how to drink his coffee from a cup instead of sucking it up a straw, all while aboard the International Space Station. Below is an excerpt of this article by Tariq Malik of detailing how he achieved this.

"We can suck our coffee from a bag, but to drink it from a cup is hard to do
because you can't get the cup up to get the liquid out, and it's also easy to slosh," Pettit told Mission Control while sending a video of his new invention to Earth.
Pettit arrived at the space station last week aboard the shuttle Endeavour, which is delivering a recycling system that converts urine into drinking water and other new gear to outfit the space station for large, six-person crew.
He used a piece of plastic ripped from his Flight Data File mission book and folded it into a teardrop-shape that's closed at one end.
Surface tension inside the cup keeps the coffee from floating out and running
"The way this works is, the
cross section of this cup looks like an airplane wing," he said. "The narrow angle here will wick the coffee up."
The result: space coffee in a
zero-G cup. The theory behind the novel coffee cup is the same one used by rockets use to draw fuel into their engines while flying through weightless conditions in space, Pettit said.
"This may very well be what
future space colonists end up using when they want to have a celebration and do a toast," Pettit said.
Pettit is no stranger to space invention.
During his first spaceflight as the space station's Expedition 6 science officer in
2002/2003, he was renown for his Saturday Morning Science efforts and tinkering with broken hardware. He told before launching aboard Endeavour that he hoped to hunt down his favorite tools, stowed away in a so-called Strange Tool Bag, when he returned to the space station.
It was during his Expedition 6 mission that Pettit packed along enough instant coffee to tide him over during his long-duration mission in space. Drinking coffee through a bag pales in comparison to the comfort of a real cup, he said.
"You can enjoy a cup of coffee in a weightless environment without having to sip it from a bag," Pettit said. "You can just keep sipping and sipping clear down to the last drop in the cup."

Here is NASA video of Mr. Pettit describing his invention.

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