On March 18, astronaut Koichi Wakata arrived at the International Space Station to begin his three-month space sojourn — the longest ever for a Japanese spaceman. Although much of Wakata’s time in space will be devoted to official research and maintenance duties, he plans to set aside a little free time for 16 offbeat experiments proposed by the Japanese public.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) selected the extra experiments from nearly 1,600 proposals they received after asking the public what tests they would like to see performed in space. The 16 experiments are listed here as questions posed to Wakata.
1. Calisthenics: Is it possible to follow an audio-guided workout program in zero gravity?
2. Backflips: On Earth, backflips take a lot of practice and leg strength. How about in zero gravity?
3. Volleying (soccer): Crumple a piece of paper into a ball and try kicking it around. How does the ball behave in zero gravity? Can you volley it?
4. Push-ups: In space, can you do push-ups while facing the ceiling or walls?
5. Cartwheels: In zero gravity, can you rotate yourself continuously like a windmill?
6. Swimming: Try to swim through the air as if you were in water. Can you move forward by swimming? If not, why not?
7. Spin like an ice skater: On Earth, ice skaters can increase their rotation speed by pulling their arms closer in to the body while they spin. Does the same thing happen in zero gravity? If so, what is the reason?
8. Folding clothes: In space, can you fold clothes and put them away as you do on Earth? It seems that the shirt sleeves would be difficult to keep in place. What is the best way to fold clothes in space?
9. Magic carpet: Try to sit on a floating carpet. Magic carpets are a fantasy on Earth, but are they possible in space?
10. Water gun: On Earth, if you squeeze a drink bag, a single stream of liquid shoots out through the straw hole and falls to the ground. How does the liquid behave in zero gravity?
11. Eye drops: On Earth, you have to face upward to put eye drops into your eyes. Is there a better way to do this in zero gravity?
12. Propulsion through space: When floating in zero gravity, how much power do you need in order to propel yourself around? Can you move simply by blowing air from your mouth or by flapping a hand-fan?
The next four activities are to be performed by two people:
13. Arm wrestling 14. Shaking hands 15. Sumo 16. Tug-of-war
JAXA plans to release videos of Wakata’s experiments in July.