Lost Chopstick | Daily Planet | Air & Space Magazine

Lost Chopstick

Velcro helps us keep things from floating away at dinner time. Or so I thought

airspacemag.com

I like to eat with chopsticks, and I bring a pair on every flight. Like some prehensile extension of my fingers, they allow me to pull food out of its gooey pouch without getting sticky fingers. In weightlessness I can manipulate a huge chunk of food — maybe an agglomeration of ravioli that would normally fall apart under the influence of gravity. Here the pieces stay loosely connected, like a miniature collection of asteroid debris. These can be eaten as is, or wrapped between a couple of tortillas.

There are Velcro dots fixed to my chopsticks so they can be parked on the galley table and not float away. At least so I thought. I parked my chopsticks in the middle of dinner so I could fly to the cupola windows and take a picture of the Earth. When I came back, one of the chopsticks was gone. It had just floated off. Apparently I did not firmly engage the hook to the pile. My first instinct was to look down. This works on Earth, but not up here. I made a broad sweep of the surrounding volume. A small floating object is difficult to find in the camouflaging background of spacecraft clutter. My chopstick had simply vanished. Two days later, one of my crewmates found it stuck to a ventilator inlet grill.

In space you get to play with your food and call it science.

Editor’s Note: Don did an interview today with Oregon radio and TV reporters, and talked about everything from space immigration to the calluses that develop on the tops of your feet in zero-G (while the bottoms of your feet get soft). Here’s the video:

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