What does a coffee cup in space look like?
What does a coffee cup in space look like?
Want to drink coffee from a cup? It's not easy in space.

in space, astronauts can also drink coffee, and Italian companies have even sent an authentic espresso machine to the International Space Station. However, astronauts can't drink it from ordinary cups.

imagine the mugs in our lives. Whether we control the liquid in it or pour it to our mouth, we rely on gravity. As a result, these cups are not easy to use in space: in a microgravity environment, liquids are no longer under the command of gravity, and they will become difficult to control. The trouble is even greater when hot liquids like coffee are floating around.

what is the solution to that? If astronauts still want to drink coffee from a cup, they can choose a specially designed cup, like the following:

this shape feels a little strange.

here is a demonstration of the use of a similar cup:

this is a demonstration by astronaut Don Pettit.

compared with ordinary cups, this kind of cup can better control the liquid in the microgravity environment and bring the drink to people's mouth. The key point to achieve this is that the cup can no longer be cylindrical, there needs to be a narrow sharp corner, we can see that the drink will spontaneously "climb" along this sharp corner. This depends on capillarity, which is based on the interaction between solid and liquid surfaces, as well as the surface tension of the liquid itself, which still exist in microgravity. By the same token, you can still absorb water with a towel in space, but the water droplets don't drop when you twist the towel.

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develop coffee cups suitable for use in space, which is actually a study by NASA to understand the performance of liquids in microgravity. In addition to making cups, they also hope to make more use of capillarity to make all kinds of liquids obedient in space.

for more explanations on capillarity, please refer to the → motion picture here: soaked Sponge

the original text is an introduction to NASA.