NASA followed one of the classic rules for Internet videos during its first space-to-Earth Google Hangout on Friday: If you want to bring in the viewers, don’t forget the cats.
Astronaut Tom Marshburn‘s demonstration of how an astronaut in the International Space Station‘s zero-gravity environment can imitate a falling kitty was one of the highlights of the hourlong video chat, which addressed more than 30 questions sent in via YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and real-time hookups with kids across the country.
One of the questions, phrased in the form of a video, came from the host of the “Smarter Every Day”webcast series, a rocket engineer known as Destin. (He keeps mum about his last name to protect his kids, who appear in the webcasts.) Destin ran his own mini-video showing how a falling cat rights itself in the air to land on its feet, and asked if the astronauts could match that feat in zero-G.
“We don’t have any cats onboard,” said space station commander Kevin Ford, “but we have a medical doctor who maybe can try to demonstrate the next best thing to a cat.”
Marshburn, who’s a physician as well as an astronaut, then proceeded to float in front of the camera and twist his body to change position — not quite as adroitly as the cats, but not bad for a human.