The Out-of-This-World Cup

Astronauts on the International Space Station play a gravity-defying soccer game.
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Whether you call them footballs or soccer balls, they are spherical little feats of engineering—globes designed to work both with and against the forces of nature. But soccer balls are also designed, of course, for working with one particular force: gravity. In the video above, NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Steve Swanson, along with the European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, of Germany, show us what happens when soccer is played without the luxury, or the impediment, of gravity. 

In the process, they raise a very important existential question: If you play a game of soccer in space, ARE YOU STILL PLAYING SOCCER? 

Regardless. It's great to see the ball whirling around the Space Station, and it's nice to celebrate what the World Cup is meant to represent. "Have fun and have peaceful games," Gerst says in the video. "May the best win." Then again, it's worth noting that only three of the ISS's six residents are participating in this (Out of This) World Cup. There are, after all, three other guys living on the Station right now: Alexander Skvortsov, Oleg Artemyev, and Maxim Suraev—yep, Russian cosmonauts. The political tensions between the U.S. and Russia have recently stretched into space. And onto, it seems, the three-dimensional soccer field that is the International—but not quite international—Space Station. 

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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