What Happens When You Wring a Washcloth in Orbit?
Expedition 35 commander Chris Hadfield gives a brief demonstration of fluid dynamics in freefall (CSA/ASC)
During the second NASA-contracted SpaceX Dragon cargo run to the International Space Station (ISS) Sunday morning (March 3, 2013), Canadian astronaut, soon-to-be ISS commander and hugely popular orbital Twitter user Chris Hadfield kept tabs on the Dragon berthing. Here are the stunning views he captured during the successful capture. Here, the Dragon capsule is grappled by the station's robotic arm -- an instrument designed and built by MDA Space Missions for the Canadian Space Agency. "Tonight's Finale: A Dragon, snared and tamed by Canadarm2. Saint George ringing in a new era in the silence of space," Hadfield tweeted. Here are some more views shared by Hadfield with the world via his Twitter account, @Cmdr_Hadfield.
The Canadarm2 awaits the arrival of the Dragon capsule. The robotic arm is the primary component of the space station's Mobile Servicing System (MSS) that was installed in 2001. The Canadarm2 provides support to astronauts on board the station -- berthing spacecraft, providing maintenance services and moving equipment around the station's exterior. "Canadarm2, proud builder of the International Space Station, in preparation for the successful grabbing of a Dragon," tweeted Hadfield.
"Dragon comes into view - first sight this morning, sneaking up on us from behind the Progress solar array," tweeted Hadfield, referring to one of the solar panels of the docked Russian Progress cargo vehicle.
"Self-portrait in the Cupola with rising Dragon below, Africa behind."
As the Dragon approached the space station, there were plenty of photo ops for the astronauts. "The Dragon spaceship high over Mount Etna - both spitting fire," said Hadfield as the spacecraft passed over the east coast of Sicily, Italy.
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft over the Sahara Desert before space station berthing on March 3, 2013.
"Like a Praying Mantis, Canadarm2 poised to reach out and grab Dragon."
"Success! Canadarm2 holds Dragon by the nose, to drag it up and hook it on to a Station hatch," said Hadfield via his Twitter account when the Dragon was snared at 5:31 am EST Sunday morning.
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.
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.
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