Scott Kelly has been on the International Space Station for 300 days now, and is nearing the end of an almost year-long mission. To pass the time, he's haunted the station's hallways in a spooky mask, eaten space lettuce, and even grown flowers.
Today, he played a solo round of ping pong with a tiny glob of water. (You can watch the footage above, in 4K no less!) "Neat stuff," Kelly says, dryly, while bouncing the liquid between to hydrophobic paddles.
Scott Kelly almost looks bored out of his mind, but he's just doing his job
It's a toned down version of Kelly compared to the excitement we see on his Twitter and Instagram accounts and, to the untrained eye, Scott Kelly appears to be bored out of his astronaut mind. But that's really just because — as exciting as the idea of space travel is to many of us Earth-humans — this is still Kelly's day job. To be fair to Kelly, making mundane web videos on the space station is something of a badge of honor at this point.
But what's more, even though this video seems goofy and dull, there's a lot that can be gleaned from it — both by NASA and by viewers like you and me. The paddles Kelly's using were laser-etched and then sprayed with Teflon. The etching roughed up the surface enough that, when combined with the Teflon, the material became quite excellent at repelling water. Considering that last week's spacewalk was cut short due to a water leak in one of the astronaut's helmets, it's probably a good thing that Kelly had some time to experiment with this material today.
The video itself is also part of an ongoing experiment of sorts, considering it was beamed down to Earth in 4K. NASA sent a RED Epic camera up to the ISS last year and has been using it to film all sorts of things, both for the web and for its new 4K television channel. This push from NASA to film even the most mundane activities in 4K has been a welcome one, because for the first time it really feels like you can get a sense of how big the space station is, and what it must be like to be there.
Scott Kelly's taken on some considerable risk spending this much time living on the space station, but he gets to come home later this spring. Let's all just be thankful he doesn't have Space Madness... yet.