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What happens when you wring out a washcloth in zero-G? Now we know

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield performs a simple science experiment designed Kendra Lemke and Meredith Faulkner, 10th-graders at Lockview High School in Fall River, Nova Scotia.



We've recently been reminded about the problems posed by zero-G poop and weightless weeping, but here's a real puzzler for zero-G hygiene: What happens to the water when you wring out a washcloth on the International Space Station? That's the question addressed in Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield's latest silly science experiment  — and the answer might not be what you expect.

This experiment takes the prize ... literally: It was designed by Kendra Lemke and Meredith Faulkner, two 10th-graders at Lockview High School in Fall River, Nova Scotia, and entered in a science contest sponsored by the Canadian Space Agency. A panel of judges selected the "Ring It Out" demonstration as the contest's winner.


Would the water spray out in a hail of fast-moving droplets, or blurp out in slow-moving globs? Actually, the students hypothesized that the water would just stay on the washcloth — and Hadfield proved them correct during Tuesday's live demonstration.

"The experiment worked beautifully," Hadfield said. "The answer to the question is, the water squeezes out of the cloth, and then because of the surface tension of the water, it actually runs along the surface of the cloth and then up into my hand, almost like you had gel on your hand, and it'll just stay there. Wonderful moisturizer on my hands."

It's one thing to read those observations, and quite another to see them on video. Watch the experiment, and then dig into these other hot topics in zero-G hygiene:

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Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.