What Happens When You Wring a Washcloth in Orbit?

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Expedition 35 commander Chris Hadfield gives a brief demonstration of fluid dynamics in freefall (CSA/ASC)

In space, even the most mundane activities take on an exotic twist. Eating, drinking, sleeping… going to the bathroom… all of the everyday things that we do on Earth rely in some way on the constant, ever-present force of gravity. Remove that force — or at least mitigate its immediate effects — and everything behaves differently. Even something as unremarkable as, say, wringing out a wet cloth.

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Canadian astronaut and Expedition 35 commander Chris Hadfield, well-known for his many photos and videos from the ISS, recently demonstrated on camera what happens when you squeeze the water from a saturated standard-issue NASA washcloth while in low-Earth orbit.

The results probably aren’t what you’d expect. Watch the full video here.

Commander Hadfield wasn’t just playing around on a dull day in space, though… this is science! Actually the idea was originally proposed by Lockview High School 10th-graders Kendra Lemke and Meredith Faulkner from Fall River, Nova Scotia. The students won a Canadian Space Agency science contest with an experiment on surface tension in space using a wet washcloth (and apparently one wet astronaut as well.)

By winning the contest, Kendra and Meredith got to see their experiment conducted by Hadfield in orbit during a live video connection with the Station.

“I was about your age when I decided I wanted to become an astronaut,” Commander Hadfield said to the 1200 Lockview High students watching from the school’s gymnasium. “I hope that you remember today and continue to be curious about science and space. You are the space explorers of the future and the sky is no longer the limit.”

Video credit: Canadian Space Agency/NASA