Skip to main content

Education Matters

Back to all posts

Candy Corn in Space!! A Sweet Science Experiment

NASA Astronaut Don Pettit used Candy Corn to conduct experiements in space. (Photo: Don Pettit,
NASA Astronaut Don Pettit used Candy Corn to conduct experiements in space. (Photo: Don Pettit,

It's Friday, and I tend to get a little silly on Fridays. I mean, why not? The weekend is right around the corner, and it's time to have some fun. But I also like to peruse NPR's ScienceFriday to see what cool - and sometimes silly - science content that Ira Flatow will be featuring on his show.

Intrigued by the tab labeled "For Teachers", I clicked on it to see what I could find. After a few minutes of browsing, I found this sugary gem.

According to ScienceFriday, "Astronauts are allowed to bring special “crew preference” items when they go up in space. NASA astronaut Don Pettit chose candy corn for his five and a half month stint aboard the International Space Station. But these candy corn were more than a snack; Pettit used them for experimentation."

Pettit was experimenting with different types of surfactants, which are soap molecules that are often used in detergents. Pettit wanted to demonstrate how the candy corn, which represents the surfactant molecules, can isolate grease particles and - therefore - make "something" clean. For this experiment, though, Pettit "used our whole crew's candy corn for this one demonstration, which I [Pettit] profusely apologize to the rest of the crew because they didn't get to eat any."

This experiment is great for 6th - 8th grade science classrooms, and it satisfies the NS.5-8.1 and NS.5-8.2 National Standards. The activity materials can also be obtained from any grocery story, making this a fairly cheap - yet really fun - science experiment.

Have a great weekend!

Footage courtesy of Don Pettit. Music courtesy of Bardo Music/South Hill Project. Produced by Flora Lichtman. Article by Austen Saltz. Source: