If Astronauts Cry in Space, Will Their Tears Fall?

The astronauts aboard the International Space Station work every day on all kinds of experiments, from working with robots to preparing for spacewalks. But when they get a break, they often field questions from school children and adults about life in space.

Commander Chris Hadfield recently videotaped himself demonstrating a simple experiment inspired by a common question: If an astronaut cries in space, do their tears fall?

On Earth, of course, it’s gravity that causes tears to roll down the cheek. In a microgravity environment, if an astronaut is sad or gets something in his/her eye, tears will certainly well up, but there will be none of what Smokey Robinson’s tears made on his face.

Hadfield, possibly the most social media-savvy astronaut ever with more than 500,000 Twitter followers, gamely demonstrates that tears do pool under the eye but they make no tracks. Squirting water into his right eye, he rolls his head around, causing the puddle of “tears” to shift back and forth and even roll over the bridge of his nose.

Tears don’t fall, he concludes, so bring a hanky.

Hadfield is no stranger to demonstrating, or discussing, human bodily functions in space. Speaking before the Ontario Space Centre a few years ago, he discussed something that you may have wondered about: going to the bathroom in space.

Kate Rix writes about digital media and education. Visit her website: katerixwriter.com.


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