Candy Corn In Space: More Than A Snack Astronauts are allowed special "crew preference" items when they go up in space. NASA astronaut Don Pettit chose candy corn for his five-and-a-half-month stint aboard the International Space Station. Find out what he did with it.
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Candy Corn In Space: More Than A Snack

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Candy Corn In Space: More Than A Snack

Candy Corn In Space: More Than A Snack

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You're listening to SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR News. I'm Ira Flatow.

Now, Flora is with us - hi, Flora…


FLATOW: …for her video pick of the week. It's a doozy this week, isn't it?

LICHTMAN: It is a doozy. I have to say.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: You did it. I'm glad you're proud of your work. And we can see on, on the Web site.

LICHTMAN: You can go to the Web site. And actually, I didn't do it. The real handy work here goes to an astronaut by the name of Don Pettit, and he spent about six months up in the International Space Station floating around, and he just loves science. And so, in his off-duty time, he did all these really fun experiments, and he videotaped them. And that's why they're on our Web site.

FLATOW: Describe a couple that we have up there.

LICHTMAN: The headliner, I think, is this video about candy corn.

FLATOW: Candy corn in space.

LICHTMAN: Cosmic candy corn.

FLATOW: Cosmic candy corn.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: What does he do with candy corn?

LICHTMAN: Well, he realized that he could make a large-scale analogy to the way soap molecules work. So, basically, in this video, every candy corn represents a soap molecule. And because you can have these big water blobs in space that don't get pulled down by gravity…

FLATOW: Right.

LICHTMAN: …you can show kind of how the soap molecules surround a grease molecule, a grease blob…

FLATOW: Right.

LICHTMAN: …and how they work.

FLATOW: So what you're saying, he made like a ball made out of candy corn in this grease blob.

LICHTMAN: Right. And the upshot is that you - there's a video of a blob of candy corn floating around space.


(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: It's very, very cool. And he eats it at the end.

LICHTMAN: Yes, he's eating it throughout. You can tell that, you know, they only get to bring on a certain number. These are special crew preference items.


LICHTMAN: And he chose candy corn. And he said that, you know, he used all of them for this demo. And no one else got to eat them but him.

FLATOW: That's at if you want to see the video. But there's also another video…

LICHTMAN: Yeah, there are a couple.

FLATOW: …a very pretty one.

LICHTMAN: So he - another thing that he did while he was up there was to take these time lapse photographs out of the space station window. And, I mean, they're really spectacular, I think. One is of an aurora, and you've never seen - you know, sort of like northern lights. You've never seen them like this from space. It doesn't look real.

FLATOW: It doesn't.

LICHTMAN: I mean, it really is…

FLATOW: You're looking down on Earth, and the aurora in lapse is streaking by you, right?

LICHTMAN: Right. Right. That's streaking by you, and then there are other ones where you can see the planet moving around from the space station window.

FLATOW: Yeah. And because it's in time lapse, you'd never get that perspective of seeing the actual rotation of the space station.


FLATOW: Yeah. So he does a lot of these things up there - is he still up there?

LICHTMAN: No, he's back. And, you know, it would be interesting to know what he wished he had done. What other things that he sort of wish he had accomplished. But he is a gadgeteer. I mean, he created tons of different gadgets while he was up the space.

FLATOW: And what about this coffee cup?

LICHTMAN: Right. So one of his most famous inventions is this zero-gravity coffee mug. So he's a big coffee drinker, apparently, and he wanted to figure out a way to make a cup, where the liquid wouldn't just float out…


LICHTMAN: …because that's the problem in space, right?


LICHTMAN: You know, no gravity to pull it down.

FLATOW: I hate it when that happens.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LICHTMAN: Yeah, right. And, you know, using a fuel tank as sort of inspiration, he designed one while he was there. We have video of that, too. It's just a slew of space gadgets that…

FLATOW: Space gadgets, and he figured out how to keep the coffee in the cup while he poured it out of his little tank there.

LICHTMAN: Right. I think the key there is surface tension.

FLATOW: Surface tension. And that's what keeps the ball for the candy corn together, and all liquids. You did a video on that just a few weeks ago…

LICHTMAN: Yeah, this is…

FLATOW: …and the balloon in space, water balloon.

LICHTMAN: This is a sequel to water balloon in space story.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: And that was a very popular one. This is going to be very popular, too, actually.

LICHTMAN: I hope so, Ira.

FLATOW: Cosmic candy corn. We got the time lapse photography - triple header today.

LICHTMAN: Triple header.

FLATOW: Time lapse, candy corn - time lapse photography and the coffee mug.

LICHTMAN: Check them out.

FLATOW: Check them out at, and we'll wait to see you next week, Flora.


FLATOW: Thanks for stopping by.

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