ISS Astronauts Just Played the First Tennis Game in Space

Wednesday, 22 August 2018 - 11:54AM
Space
NASA
Wednesday, 22 August 2018 - 11:54AM
ISS Astronauts Just Played the First Tennis Game in Space
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Image Credit: Pixabay Composite
If Chris Hadfield's recording sessions aboard the ISS didn't impress you, how about a zero-gravity tennis throwdown? Yesterday, NASA streamed a live doubles match between Commander Andrew Feustel and flight engineers Serena Aunon-Chancellor, Ricky Arnold, and Alexander Gerst. The match was sponsored by the U.S. Open, one of the four international tennis tournaments that make up the Grand Slam, and was projected onto the Unisphere, a giant metal globe outside the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York. You can see a clip of the match here:



Interestingly, it turns out tennis is a very different game in zero gravity. According to Feustel, speaking before the match: "Balls won't bounce, and gravity has no effect. To me, it's going to seem like that old game Pong, where you hit the ball and the ball just goes straight–it doesn't bounce on anything. So it's going to be challenging. We might have to invent some new rules." You'll notice that the astronauts are mostly volleying the ball back and forth, and that the main challenge seems to be staying upright while they float around.

You've also probably noted that the net and court for the match were not regulation size, nor were the adorably tiny rackets. Before the match, however, Feustel got some advice from Juan Martín del Potro, who is currently ranked third in the world for men's singles. Del Potro jokingly tweeted "Never thought I would get to coach someone to play a tennis match in Space!!"

Between tennis matches and shipments of blueberries, ice cream, and Deathwish Coffee, the ISS may seem like a multi-billion-dollar playground for astronauts, but living and working on the station can be pretty stressful—that's why NASA sent up a flying robot named CIMON to monitor the astronauts' mental health...and why they created a procedure to restrain astronauts if they go crazy (or don't take their tennis loss well).
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