The Space Station Cups Even Cooler Than Tang

As much as we all dig Capri Sun (don’t lie), pouches aren’t a great way to enjoy your morning coffee. No heady aroma, not a lot of temperature control. Astronauts aboard low-gravity vessels have traditionally had to make do with the sub-par ergonomics of liquid sacks at tea time, but thanks to researchers at Portland State, space tea is now more relaxing while staying NASA-approved.

The Space Cup was designed by Mark Weislogel, Andrew Wollman, John Graf and Donald Pettit, based on a prototype first tinkered with by Pettit way back in 2008, while stationed as an astronaut on the International Space Station. In order to serve a beverage in the open air (and without risking runaway droplets) the cup uses a unique shape tailored to the properties of fluid dynamics in low-g, material interaction, capillary flow, and an understanding of molecular attraction in water. 

The result is a bonkers little device that looks like a cross between an orchid and an alien sex toy, but the upshot is hardly comical. What started as a fun application of university math has made room for reconsideration of how fluids are used in microgravity environments, and might even shift future space travel design. Pretty exciting stuff, if you’re into that kind of thing. And if you really are, you can buy a Space Cup of your own and tell people your tea is out of this world.

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