This Crazy Machine Let Astronauts Experiment With Fluids 30 Years Ago

It might look more like an engine from an aging car than a piece of engineering fit for space, but this machine was a pioneering piece of apparatus that allowed astronauts to experiment with fluids in space.

The Fluid Physics Module was hand-built in Italy, and it flew on the first-ever mission of the European Spacelab in 1983. It allowed astronauts to observe and manipulate up to a liter of liquid whilst in space, observing the effects of microgravity upon it.


Spacelab itself was a small, European-built space laboratory hosted aboard the Space Shuttle between 1983 and 1998. According to the ESA, results from that very lab have inspired everything from "space-age metals used in mass-produced smartphones" to "research that shows promise in treating chronic muscle diseases." Not bad, eh? [ESA]

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