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: .

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