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Can a Vortex Form in Zero Gravity? Taiwanese Student Proposal Selected for Japanese Space Capsule Experiment

A call for proposals was recently sent out by the Asian Beneficial Collaboration through Kibo Utilization (Kibo-ABC) program offering the opportunity for experiments to be conducted on the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo" on the International Space Station (ISS). Out of 480 participants and 201 proposals, six experiments were chosen in the final selection. One experiment, "Water Vortex in Zero Gravity," was proposed by Tsai Chih-Chun, a first-year student in the Department of Earth Sciences at National Central University. Tsai's proposal was first evaluated domestically by NARLabs' National Space Organization (NSPO), then internationally by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and was finally selected to be conducted by Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata in the space capsule this fall.

The development of space science and technology and the promotion of the space industry are main priorities of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). NSPO works to carry out MOST policies to nurture talented individuals in space science and the space industry, popularize space science, and assist local scholars in participating in international space science and technology-related competitions, cultivating the seeds for Taiwan's future in space-related fields.

The Kibo-ABC program was established by the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF) to promote greater access to the Kibo experiment module for researchers in the Asia-Pacific region. Kibo-ABC initiated the project Asian Try Zero-G 2022, which invited youth to propose simple experiments that would be conducted in space on the Kibo Experiment Module. The invitation was sent to 14 Kibo-ABC member countries/regions and attracted a total of 201 proposals from 480 applicants. After a preliminary round in each country, winning proposals were sent to Japan for the final selection. A total of six proposals were selected, one of which was the proposal authored by local student Tsai Chih-Chun.

Tsai's proposal explains that when a bottle of water is rotated on the ground with force, a vortex is generated in the bottle; his experiment will test whether a vortex can still form in a zero-gravity space environment and how the water inside the rotating vessel behaves.

Tsai predicts that if a cylindrical bottle is rotated around its vertical axis in a zero-gravity environment, the rotation will only generate centripetal force and the water will stick to the sides of the bottle, hollowing out the center. Another prediction is that if the bottle is rotated around its horizontal axis, water will quickly move to both ends of the bottle. The experiment also calls for observation of the liquid's state after rotation is stopped.

Figure 1: Tsai predicts that if a cylindrical bottle is rotated around its vertical axis in a zero-gravity environment, the rotation will only generate centripetal force and the water will stick to the sides of the bottle, hollowing out the center.Figure 1: Tsai predicts that if a cylindrical bottle is rotated around its vertical axis in a zero-gravity environment, the rotation will only generate centripetal force and the water will stick to the sides of the bottle, hollowing out the center.
Another prediction is that if the bottle is rotated around its horizontal axis, water will quickly move to both ends of the bottle. The experiment also calls for observation of the liquid's state after rotation is stopped.Another prediction is that if the bottle is rotated around its horizontal axis, water will quickly move to both ends of the bottle. The experiment also calls for observation of the liquid's state after rotation is stopped.


NSPO expressed that Taiwan is actively participating in programs like Kibo-ABC, encouraging young students and scientists to get involved in space research. Taiwan has participated in the Kibo Robot Programming Challenge organized by Kibo-ABC for three consecutive years. Last year, Taiwan also participated in Kibo-ABC's Asian Herb in Space program, hoping to increase the interest of Taiwan's students and the public in space technology and establish roots for the development of space technology and the space industry.