Astronaut Invents Zero-G Coffee Cup

This story was updated at 11:27 a.m. EST.

NASA astronaut Don Pettit loves his coffee. So it comes as no surprise that he found a way to drink coffee from a cup, instead of the traditional straw, on his day off Sunday aboard the International Space Station.

Drinking any liquid in the weightless environment of space could be a messy affair. With hot coffee, it could be a potentially scalding affair. So astronauts use silver pouches and plastic straws to sip anything from water to orange juice to Pettit?s beloved space java.

"We can suck our coffee from a bag, but to drink it from a cup is hard to do because you can?t get the cup up to get the liquid out, and it?s also easy to slosh," Pettit told Mission Control while sending a video of his new invention to Earth.

Pettit arrived at the space station last week aboard the shuttle Endeavour, which is delivering a recycling system that converts urine into drinking water and other new gear to outfit the space station for large, six-person crew.

He used a piece of plastic ripped from his Flight Data File mission book and folded it into a teardrop-shape that?s closed at one end. Surface tension inside the cup keeps the coffee from floating out and running amuck.

"The way this works is, the cross section of this cup looks like an airplane wing," he said. "The narrow angle here will wick the coffee up."

The result: space coffee in a zero-G cup.

Endeavour shuttle astronaut Don Pettit sips coffee from a zero-g cup of his own invention during the STS-126 mission to the International Space Station. (Image credit: NASA TV)

"This may very well be what future space colonists end up using when they want to have a celebration and do a toast," Pettit said.

Pettit is no stranger to space invention.

During his first spaceflight as the space station?s Expedition 6 science officer in 2002/2003, he was renown for his Saturday Morning Science efforts and tinkering with broken hardware. He told before launching aboard Endeavour that he hoped to hunt down his favorite tools, stowed away in a so-called Strange Tool Bag, when he returned to the space station.

It was during his Expedition 6 mission that Pettit packed along enough instant coffee to tide him over during his long-duration mission in space. Drinking coffee through a bag pales in comparison to the comfort of a real cup, he said.

"You can enjoy a cup of coffee in a weightless environment without having to sip it from a bag," Pettit said. "You can just keep sipping and sipping clear down to the last drop in the cup."

Click here for a video of Don Pettit's space coffee cup from

NASA is providing live coverage of Endeavour's STS-126 mission on NASA TV. Click here for's mission coverage and NASA TV feed.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.