Let us mentally enter the world of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes to find one of Calvin’s patented cardboard sci-fi inventions, a combined version of the Transmogrifier, the Duplicator, and the Time Machine. It could potentially make Tom Hanks’ Jimmy Dugan character from A League of Their Own become one with Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell in Apollo 13, and the would-be famous lines could be spoken: “Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying in outer space!” I realize I may have wasted some of your time with that fantasy segment.
Like one of David Feldman’s Imponderables, the question of “Can you cry in space?” has been answered, as I’m sure it has in the past, only this time the answer comes from ISS astronaut and social media superstar Chris Hadfield, so you gain 10 cool points just by hearing it from him. And, of course, it’s just a little more complicated than a yes or no answer.
If an astronaut were to receive a Dear John letter from their now former lover, the eyes would definitely well up with tears, but their presence in zero gravity means they’re unable to slide down the cheeks and into that tumbler of space bourbon. Instead, the moisture just builds up and doesn’t go anywhere, forming a tear orb which eventually detaches itself and floats around you, which is a concept just begging to be put into a pop-country ballad.
Surprisingly, until that happens – or until you just wipe it away with your hand – the sudden influx of moisture actually stings an astronaut’s eyes, perhaps due to the effect zero gravity has on moisture within the head. In any case, all they have to do is look at the Far Side desk calendar, since Calvin and Hobbes never sold out, and the tears will dry up in no time.