Don Petit is one of my favorite American astronauts. He's made some great science videos during three different trips to the International Space Station. This video was made on Planet Earth, but it's still fascinating. When Pettit's fellow astronaut Mike Massimino found himself with a broken BBQ grill, he called up Pettit to come help fix it. Why call an astronaut to fix your BBQ? Because experiments in understanding the fundamentals of combustion and space station safety gave Pettit an edge in figuring out how to make the Earth-bound grill work.
Astronaut Don Pettit is a national treasure—a skilled explainer of science who has taken time out of his many trips into space to make engaging, educational videos for a general audience.
In this video from the International Space Station, Pettit talks about physics in space, using Angry Birds as a model. If you've played the very Earth-based game, you've probably noticed that, when you launch a bird, it moves in an arched trajectory. In space, without the aid of gravity, that's not the case. Slingshot a bird in one direction, and it will just keep going on that direction.
Appealingly, Pettit demonstrates this by, yes, slingshotting a stuffed bird through a Space Station hallway.
Astronaut Don Pettit is a national treasure. He's been to space three times—once for a six-month stay on the ISS. On every mission, he's found time to make huge contributions to the public communication of science, including making a series of amazing "Science Saturday" videos and inventing (from spare parts he found lying around the ISS) a system to help the space station take clearer, sharper pictures of the Earth at night.
Pettit went to space with an international crew in December 2011 and is currently in space. This new video—where he demonstrates the way a small electric charge can manipulate the behavior of water droplets in microgravity—is a great addition to his oeuvre!