For the first time in history, the International Space Station (ISS) has hosted an outer space badminton tournament. According to the Russian space agency Roscosmos, the match was played in men’s doubles between astronauts and cosmonauts from the U.S., Russia, and Japan.
“For the first time, the ISS became a venue for sports. Athletes from Russia, the U.S., and Japan competed in the orbital badminton tournament,” a representative of the Russian space agency said.
Roscosmos also released a video clip showing the badminton shuttle zooming back and forth an ISS module while cosmonauts and astronauts floated about in zero gravity conditions.
According to the International Business Times, the match was played according to certain “space rules.” The first game saw NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei teaming up with the Russian cosmonaut Alexandr Misurkin to play against Anton Shkaplerov (Russian cosmonaut) and Norishige Kanai (Japanese astronaut).
In the second game, astronaut Joseph Acaba replaced Vande Hei.
No team was declared the winner of this historic tournament as scores were not recorded. The Roscosmos said “friendship won” the tournament.
According to the National Badminton Federation of Russia (NBFR), some of the players who took part in yesterday’s match are very good at playing badminton on the ground. Cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin has won the “Star Shuttle” badminton tournament twice. According to Russian news agency Tass, this tournament is organized in Russia’s Star City on April 12 on the occasion of Cosmonautics Day. NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is also good at playing badminton.
After the game aboard the ISS was completed, Misurkin said he loves the game although playing it on the space station was like “putting a flag on Mars.”
According to Zee News, NASA astronaut Hei suggested creating a separate module for games like badminton on future spacecraft that will carry astronauts to outer space. Hei thinks a separate module for games would allow astronauts to relax mentally and would also strengthen friendly relations among the crew.
This is not the first instance of the ISS crew finding some innovative ways to have fun while orbiting the Earth. In October last year, NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik filmed a video on the space station to demonstrate how fidget spinners work in zero gravity. After returning to Earth in December, Bresnik uploaded another short video on Twitter showing astronauts playing American football aboard the ISS.
Although hosting a game of badminton on the space station has potential to break barriers, the future of the space station doesn’t look very bright. Recently, there were rumors about the White House administration planning to cut funding for the ISS in near future. The ISS is a joint project of multiple space agencies from around the world, and the expenses for the maintenance and the running of this orbiting laboratory are shared by the participating nations. If the U.S. decides to pull out of this project in coming years, it might become almost impossible to operate the space station as planned. Whether ISS would be able to host some more badminton tournaments in future remains to be seen.