NASA’s curvaceous capillary beverage cup, designed for drinking coffee in microgravity environments, looks like it could have been a creation of Georgia O’Keeffe. However, it was actually invented by astronaut Donald Pettit on the International Space Station and patented in 2018.
The capillary beverage cup has a special corner inside that narrows down towards the drinking edge. This design helps keep the liquid inside, making it easier to drink the content in low or zero gravity. The cup’s open top lets you enjoy the smell of your drink without worrying about spills or floating drops in space.
Rochester Institute of Technology interviewed Pettit about his vulva-shaped, I mean, teardrop-shaped creation:
The first prototype, fabricated by Pettit on the International Space Station, is made of repurposed Mylar sheeting and Kapton tape. Applying the principle of capillary channel flow, he formed the cup, pinched into a teardrop shape as the fluid flows along a narrow channel to the rim for drinking.
The prototype was developed into the second version, designed by Mark Weislogel and his team at Portland State University. The cup is made out of 3D-printed food-grade plastic and has been flight-tested by NASA. The use of complex fluid dynamic geometry enhances the hydration experience that is closer to what we’re accustomed to on Earth.
Later, Pettit crafted his own handmade version of the capillary cup based on Weislogel’s design. This porcelain ceramic version is now on the International Space Station and is the first patented product invented in orbit.
Interested in owning one? Spaceware has a limited number available for $95 each.
See also: Space-themed latte art.