As it turns out, what "you can't do (that) on television" on Earth, you can do in outer space.
Nickelodeon, the children's cable channel that made green slime its trademark after it was first introduced on the 1980's comedy show "You Can't Do That on Television," used its annual Kids' Choice Awards broadcast on Saturday (May 2) to premiere the first footage of its brightly-hued goo floating in microgravity (opens in new tab).
"We sent slime into outer space and yes, it was out of this world," said Victoria Justice, the award show's host and former Nickelodeon star. "I can't wait to see what happens when astronauts let slime loose in zero gravity!"
if they ever need volunteers to bring more slime into space, we're available 💚 #KCA2020 #NationalAstronomyDay pic.twitter.com/SQc4J1M1XFMay 3, 2020
"The International Space Station is the only place where you can do this, so don't try this at home — or if you try, expect something very, very different," said European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano as part of the slime demonstration.
Slime in space
While the public got its first look at the slime in space (opens in new tab) on Saturday, the footage was filmed in September 2019 (opens in new tab), while Parmitano and NASA astronaut Christina Koch were still aboard the space station (the two returned to Earth in February (opens in new tab)).
Organized by the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, the Slime in Space, or "Non-Newtonian Fluids in Microgravity (opens in new tab)," project was aimed at creating educational videos and other content to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts to Nickelodeon's target audience, elementary and middle school students.
"Slime is a non-Newtonian fluid, a material in which its viscosity (resistance to flow) changes based on the amount of shear stress applied to it — for example, through squeezing or stirring," explained (opens in new tab) the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization that manages the National Lab for NASA.
Packaged in its own specially-labeled "Slime Bag," the green fluid launched aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft (opens in new tab) with other science experiments and supplies for the space station's Expedition 61 crew in July 2019.
"Houston, we have a slime blob"
"Today, we're going to be working some really crazy science with slime in space," said Parmitano, introducing what he and Koch were about to do on camera. "We want to see and study how this strange concoction behaves in orbit."
"Boom!" Koch proclaimed, as she squeezed the slime out of its bag through a straw to float free. "Houston, we have a slime blob."
As shown during the Kids' Choice Awards' segment, Parmitano (opens in new tab) and Koch (opens in new tab) were able to start the slime spinning in mid-air and to adhere to a paddle board, the latter demonstrating surface tension. The two also filled a balloon with the material and then popped it with a safety pin to watch what happened and they ejected the slime from a large syringe.
Of course, what Nickelodeon's slime is most famous for is pouring atop people, including celebrities attending the annual Kids' Choice Awards. While the lack of a gravitational pull prevented the astronauts from spilling the slime over each others' heads, it did not mean they went unsplattered.
"Ahh! I'm slimed!" yelled Koch while laughing, as Parmitano sprayed the gooey green substance on her arm and across her shirt. (The astronauts erected a large cloth over a nearby hatchway to catch any wayward slime from going elsewhere aboard the station.)
"Playing with slime in space is way more fun than I thought it would be — and way more unpredictable," said Koch. "Just like all of the other science we do, you cannot replicate these experiments on the Earth, you need zero gravity to see some of this behavior."
Since the early days of human spaceflight, astronauts have reported delight while observing the behavior of liquids in microgravity, from water blobs to quickly-decarbonated soda balls (opens in new tab). It has not been all for fun, though, as past experiments have helped improve the design of fuel tanks and microfluidic devices for medical applications.
In addition to filming the slime experiment for Nickelodeon using traditional video cameras, the demonstration was also captured using a virtual reality (VR) 360-degree camera as part of "The ISS Experience (opens in new tab)" being produced by Felix & Paul Studios and TIME Magazine. That immersive footage, and additional content from Nickelodeon's digital platforms, have yet to be released.
- International Space Station: Facts, history & tracking (opens in new tab)
- Fun in zero-G: Weightless photos from Earth and space (opens in new tab)
- Slime mold models help astronomers map filaments of the cosmic web (opens in new tab)
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