November 27, 2008 / 8:06 PM / 9 years ago

Shuttle astronaut invents zero-gravity cup

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - Future space travelers may be drinking their own urine, thanks to the International Space Station’s new water recycler, but they can now do so with a touch of class.

Space Shuttle Endeavour astronauts Don Pettit (L) and Stephen Bowen drink after making a Thanksgiving toast from aboard the International Space Station (ISS) in this November 27, 2008 image from NASA TV. REUTERS/NASA TV

Endeavour astronaut Don Pettit, a self-described tinkerer who served as the space station’s flight engineer in 2003, invented a zero-gravity cup that wicks liquids along the sides of a piece of folded plastic, eliminating the need for a straw.

Because liquids typically form spherical blobs in weightlessness, astronauts drink from sealed pouches using straws. Pettit, a huge coffee fan, didn’t like sipping his java, and created the cup from a sheet of transparent plastic used in overhead projectors by folding it into the shape of an airplane wing and taping it in place.

“The way this works is the cross-section of this cup looks like an airplane wing. The narrow angle here will wick the coffee up,” Pettit explained in a video radioed to NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston and broadcast on NASA TV.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour with the Leonardo Multi-purpose Logistics module in the payload bay is seen docked to the International Space Station (ISS) in this November 27, 2008 image from NASA TV.REUTERS/NASA TV

“We can sip most of the fluid out of these cups and we no longer have to drink our beverages sucking through a straw in a pouch,” Pettit said.

On Thursday, Petit made another cup for crewmate Stephen Bowen and proposed a toast to the Thanksgiving holiday, space exploration and “just because we’re in space and we can.”

One of the Shuttle’s main mission was to install a $250 million water recycling system enables the Space Station crew to recycle urine and other wastewater into drinking water.

The astronauts were scheduled to share a Thanksgiving meal of dehydrated turkey with their space station hosts before closing the hatches between the two ships in preparation for Endeavour’s departure on Friday.

The shuttle, which delivered a water-purification system to the station among other gear, is due back at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday after a 16-day mission.

Editing by Sandra Maler

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