7 Sports Astronauts Love Without Gravity (Including Football)

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station spend most of their time doing science, exercising and maintaining the station. But they still have time to shoot hoops and toss around a football.

From chess to soccer, there’s a zero-gravity spin to everything.

1. Baseball

Baseball: America’s favorite pastime. JAXA astronaut, Satoshi Furukawa shows us how microgravity makes it possible to be a one-man team. It would be a lot harder to hit home runs if the players could jump that high to catch the ball.

2. Chess

Yes, it’s a sport, and one time NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff (right) played Earth on a Velcro chess board. An elementary school chess team would pick moves that everyone could vote for online. The winning move would be Earth’s play, and then Chamitoff would respond. About every two days, a move would be made. But who won the historic Earth vs. Space match? Earth! Chamitoff resigned after Earth turned its pawn into a queen, but it was game well played.

3. Soccer

NASA astronaut Steve Swanson put a new spin on soccer by juggling the ball upside down. However, he might not have considered himself upside down. On the space station, up and down are relative.

4. Gymnastics

NASA astronauts usually sign off their videos with a zero-gravity somersault (either forwards or backwards). But astronauts are also proficient in handstands, flips and twists. The predecessor to the International Space Station, the Skylab, had the best space for the moves. The current space station is a bit tight in comparison.

5. Basketball

Objects that aren’t heavy don’t move very well on the space station. They kind of just float. It’s like Earth, but exaggerated. For example, on Earth a beach ball wouldn’t go as far as a basketball. The same is true in space, which is why playing with a basketball in space is more fun than playing with a beach ball.

6. Golf

People talk about hitting golf balls off skyscrapers, but what about off the International Space Station? While golf isn’t a normal occurrence on the station, it’s been there. One golf company even sent an experiment to the station to find out how to make better golf clubs.

7. Football

Zero gravity doesn’t make everything easier. Astronauts need to relearn how to throw things because their brains need to relearn how to interpret sensory information. A bowling ball on the space station no longer feels as heavy as a bowling ball on Earth. When astronauts first throw things on the space station, everything keeps going too high. That would put a wrench in your spiral for a couple of months. But once you adjust, the perfect spiral will just keep spiraling!

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The Bigelow Expendable Activity Module, or BEAM, is loaded into the CRS-8 Dragon trunk, early February, 2016.

BEAM is the first component of the International Space Station to have non-rigid hull, or inflatable. Bigelow Aerospace designed the module as a technology demonstrator. It will remain berthed to the ISS for over a year before being removed for destructive reentry in Earth’s atmosphere.

Bigelow has previously launched two inflatable space station prototypes, Genesis I and II, in 2003 and 2007. They plan on constructing an inflatable modular space station for commercial use based off the technology developed for the Genesis and BEAM modules.

CRS-8 is SpaceX’s first ISS resupply mission since the CRS-7 launch failure in June, 2015. It’s currently slated for a March liftoff.