Liquid Ping Pong in Zero G – Scott Kelly’s 300 Days Aboard the ISS Isn’t All Work

ping pong in space

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is on the tail end of his ‘One-Year Mission.’ Yesterday, Kelly and Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko celebrated their 300th consecutive day aboard the International Space Station. And what better way to celebrate than a little ping pong. But this isn’t just any ping pong. It’s liquid ping pong.

Armed with a pair of hydrophobic paddles, Kelly carefully bounces the drop of water between them.

Hydrophobic paddles?

Hydrophobic means water repellant. The pair of paddles is polycarbonate laser etched according to NASA. The surfaces aren’t ‘smooth.’ They are made up of arrays of 300 micrometer posts. Add a teflon coat and boom, you’ve got yourself a set of liquid ping pong paddles.

Ok, but what if you wanted to play a real ping pong match? The hydrophobic paddles help, but it’s all about how large the liquid drop is. Scott is using a 4 mL drop. That’s about 100 times larger than the average rain drop.

You see how he’s gently tapping the large water drop between the paddles? That’s because the larger the water drop, the less force it takes to break it up. A smaller drop would be harder to see, but Scott could hit it harder without it breaking apart.

Want to talk to Scott about his cool set of ping pong paddles? Or anything else about his ‘One-Year Mission?’ He’s jumping on Reddit tomorrow at 4 pm ET for an AMA.

Here’s another video showing off water surface tension in microgravity.

Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko are scheduled to return to Earth on March 3rd.

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