ISS Astronauts Hold the First Badminton Tournament in Space

Wednesday, 07 February 2018 - 7:15PM
Space
NASA
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 - 7:15PM
ISS Astronauts Hold the First Badminton Tournament in Space
< >
YouTube/Roscosmos
Sports on Earth can be entertaining, but it turns out that too much gravity can really bring down a game, in more ways than one.

Because up on the International Space Station in low Earth orbit, the crew of astronauts recently held one of the first zero-gravity badminton matches, and it's a blast to watch and likely an even bigger blast to play. The shuttlecock may move more slowly without gravity messing with it, but when you're literally bouncing off the walls to stand on the ceiling during the match, that makes up for any lost excitement.

A video of the competition was posted by Russia's space agency Roscosmos, with the first match teaming up American astronaut Mark Vande Hei with Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, who fought against the team of Anton Shkaplerov from Russia and Norishige Kanai from Japan - eventually, they start a new game with American Joseph Acaba swapping in for Vande Hei.

Surprisingly, the final scores are never announced, but this looks like a pretty casual game from very beginning, so it's possible no one cared much about keeping score. See the whole tournament below:



While it may seem like they're slacking off from work, this is actually an important part of the job. Living in space can have a number of harmful side effects on your body that we're still working to understand, and one of those side effects is muscle atrophy - when gravity pulls down on all your muscles, it's giving them a small but important workout that astronauts in zero-gravity don't have. 

So astronauts need to stay even more active in space, and flying around a zero-gravity corridor to play badminton is a completely valid way to do that. Hopefully we'll see more space games like this, because sports matches are decidedly more interesting when some players are on the ceiling.

Vande Hei agrees, adding that this sort of spontaneous leisure time is crucial from a psychological standpoint, perhaps more so when you're isolated up in space. According to a Roscosmos press statement, he said the following:

Opening quote
"In the future, in ships that will carry us to other worlds, it is necessary to provide a separate module for such a game. Since it is very useful from the point of view of psychological relaxation and strengthening of friendly relations in a team."
Closing quote


Rest assured, when the day comes where we set off for the cosmos, we'll have some room for space badminton. Or at the very least, space racquetball, which is frankly a bit of a downgrade.

Science
Science Videos
Space
NASA
No