Astronaut Donald Pettit on the evolution of the Zero G Coffee Cup

Astronaut Donald Pettit on the evolution of the Zero G Coffee Cup

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How the Zero G coffee cup was created for space coffee

For astronaut Don Pettit, celebrating space exploration feats with bags of coffee just didn't cut it. That's why he created the Zero-G coffee cup from materials right on the International Space Station—changing the way coffee is made in space

The Zero-G coffee cup allows astronauts to drink liquids the same way as they do on Earth, and it's the first-ever patent for an invention in space. We had Pettit on Fueled by Death Cast to talk about how he came about this invention. 

He initially created the coffee cup from materials he found on the International Space Station, and it has since taken on new and more dynamic forms.

"I made this on Space Station. I made this from a piece of plastic that I was able to snag from some of our procedures, and then the tape—" he said. "This is special tape—it's Kapton tape. And Kapton is a fire-retardant material, where normal cellophane tape won't meet our fire codes, so we use Kapton tape. I made this shape very specifically because of surface tension and contact wedding angle geometries needed to make the cup."

His original cup was redesigned by Mark Weislogel and his students at Portland State University. Now, the newly designed Zero-G coffee cup gives astronauts the fuel they need and the ability to smell coffee just like they would at home.

"Imagine now, you have a kind of a day at work in space," Pettit said. "Maybe you did a spacewalk, maybe you flew the robotic arm, and you snagged the first commercial vehicle coming up. And again, no pressure on you. The future of commercial space relies on your ability to fly the arm, right?"

"You know, celebrating with bags of coffee just doesn't have the same pizzazz as being able to sip your coffee or tea from an open container and kind of go "click" or "chink" or whatever with your crew mates, and then everybody can take a sip. And you also get the full effect of the smell going in your nose. And so being able to have this communion with your crew after these very special and kind of intense days on orbit is something that we've never been able to do before, and now we can."

Watch to find out more about the invention of the Zero-G coffee cup below, and listen to our full interview with Don Pettit here.

Related: Death Wish Coffee Sends Coffee to the International Space Station