Sloshing in Space: Wild Astronaut Video Shows Weightless Fluid Flow

Water's odd behavior in weightlessness comes under scrutiny in a new European Space Agency video, which shows an astronaut spinning small jars of liquid for science.

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet recorded the video in the International Space Station's Kibo laboratory as part of a "voluntary science" experiment that astronauts do outside of normal working hours. The French astronaut spins in circles with first one, then two jars; close-ups show the water slowly sloshing inside, and bubbles forming.

"Here I recorded some video of water in these tanks as it moves about inside; the technical term is sloshing," Pesquet said in a statement accompanying the video. [Fun in Zero-G: Weightless Photos from Earth and Space]

"How fluids behave is hard to model in computers and predict ... but we need this information to build better spacecraft tanks to use every last drop and increase their working life," he added.

The experiment, called SPHERES-Slosh, was previously performed on the space station using volleyball-size autonomous robots that can fly in formation. Pesquet did the experiment again after the researchers saw some "surprising results," European Space Agency officials said in the statement, although they did not specify what those results were.

Pesquet, a member of the Expedition 51 crew, has been on board the International Space Station since November. He has performed one spacewalk, and regularly posts updates on his spaceflight on his Twitter account.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: