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Space Spinner! Astronaut Shows What Fidget Spinners Do in Orbit

How awesome is a fidget spinner in space, where your body can do all the spinning you want? Pretty awesome, it turns out.

Astronauts on the International Space Station showed off their tricks in microgravity while playing with the popular toy, one of the trend-making objects of 2017.

The fidget spinner, adorned with a NASA logo, shows up in a new video on YouTube doing jitters and spins in front of the Cupola, a multiwindow view that the astronauts use for Earth observations (and occasional relaxation). [How Fidget Spinners Work: It's All About the Physics]

But then the astronauts get a hold of the toy and do some crazy tricks of their own. In the video, NASA flight engineer Mark Vande Hei (@Astro_Sabot) starts off the festivities with some slow circles, holding the spinner in his hand.

NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik plays with a fidget spinner on the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA/Randy Bresnik/Twitter)

Then Vande Hei floats right beside some other crewmates who elect to spin superfast while holding the spinner. (It's possible that Vande Hei helped them spin up quickly, but that's not shown in the video.) NASA's Randy Bresnik (@AstroKomrade) does quick rotations about his waist, NASA's Joseph Acaba (@AstroAcaba) does forward somersaults, and the European Space Agency's Paolo Nespoli (@Astro_Paolo) somersaults backwards.

"A fidget spinner in space! How long does it spin? I'm not sure, but it's a great way to experiment with Newton's laws of motion!" Bresnik wrote on Twitter.

NASA Johnson added in theYouTube post, "Allowing the fidget spinner to float reduces the bearing friction by permitting the rate of the central ring and outer spinner to equalize, and the whole thing spins as a unit."

It would be really cool to see the fidget spinner during a spacewalk, but that's unlikely to happen. NASA and other space agencies are very conscientious about space debris, as even small objects can pose a threat to the International Space Station.
 

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.