Posted by: Jerry Garrett | October 6, 2013

GRAVITY: Do Tears in Space Really Float?

When you cry in space, do your tears float away?

If you cry in Outer Space, do your tears form into little water droplets that float away?

No.

But they did, in a heart-rending scene in “Gravity“, the movie about stranded astronauts, starring Sandra Bullock.

It was one of the most memorable moments in a movie crammed with them. But, director Alfonso Cuaron admits some license was taken, to move the story along.

“It’s not a documentary,” he explained. “It’s a work of fiction. But we tried to be respectful and as accurate as possible.”

But individual tears don’t seem to float, based on the experience of astronauts who have been up there.

Cmdr. Chris Hadfield, sending twitter messages from the actual International Space Station, answered a question put to him about tears in space (watch his demonstration below):

“Can you cry in space? Your eyes make tears but they stick as a liquid ball,” he explained how tears tend to congregate around the eye. In a recent example, when one of the astronauts got something in his eye, and teared up, he had to get a sponge to dab them away.

“In fact, they sting a bit,” Hadfield added. “So – space tears don’t shed.”

Another astronaut, Ron Parise, allows as how moisture blobs might accumulate into something big enough, and heavy enough, to form into a sizable globule capable of then floating away on its own.

But for a single tear to do that, no, probably not. A good cry – try listening to a sad country western song like Bullock’s fellow astronaut George Clooney – might be enough to eventually form a lot of tears into one big tear, heavy enough to float away on its own. But that would be one epic tear.

Still, kudos to the filmmakers for producing a visual strong enough to actually form tears – in the audience.

Jerry Garrett

October 6, 2013

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