Every astronaut launch needs a Zero G indicator – and it can be anything. It serves a practical purpose: when it floats, it is a sign that the crew is experiencing weightlessness.
And it can serve a happy purpose. Since any object not strapped in can serve as a zero G indicator, astronauts have brought stuffed toys with them.
They’ve included everything from a sequined dinosaur to a “baby Yoda” plushie.
On this mission, the crew brought along a stuffed Albert Einstein doll.
NASA astronaut Josh Cassada explained the choice in a broadcast from the spacecraft:
Einstein, who first conceptualized the theory of relativity, had the “happiest thought of his entire life” when he realized that a “person in free fall can feel his own weight,” Cassada said.
That thought is part of what led to the development of his famous theory, Cassada said.
Cassada said the Crew-5 astronauts call it their “freefall indicator.”
For context: To be in the earth’s orbit is be in free fall around the planet. The only reason the spacecraft is not immediately pulled back by gravity is because it is traveling at such enormous speeds, fast enough that it begins to fall around the earth.
“We are continuously experiencing Einstein’s happiest thought, as the International Space Station has done for over 20 years,” he said.
“We’re here to tell you there’s a lot of gravity up here,” Cassada added. “Actually, that’s what keeps us in orbit right now. It keeps this trip … from being a one-way trip. It’s kind of like life. We live in the same world, we live in the same universe. Sometimes we experience we do it in a very different way than our neighbors. We can all remember that … and continue to do great things. And do it together.”