SpaceX launches Nickelodeon slime, Adidas soccer ball into space

A SpaceX Dragon capsule vaulted into orbit Thursday carrying an eclectic batch of supplies destined for the International Space Station.

Among the cargo: An Adidas soccer ball, a pouch full of Nickelodeon’s green slime, and 5,500 pounds of other experiments, supplies and food for the six astronauts aboard the ISS.

The Dragon spacecraft took flight just after 6 pm ET Thursday. It launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from a ground pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It’s a routine mission for Elon Musk’s space exploration company: SpaceX has for years conducted uncrewed resupply missions to the space station through contracts with NASA.

Thursday’s launch marked the 18th such mission for SpaceX, and it was the first time one of the company’s Dragon capsules was reused for a third trip to space. Executing a flawless trip to and from the station will highlight the strides SpaceX has made toward creating reusable hardware that can drive down the cost of space travel.

The spacecraft is currently maneuvering through orbit and is scheduled to link up with the ISS on Friday. It’ll depart the space station in about four weeks, carrying home about 3,300 pounds of trash and research materials.

Nickelodeon arranged to include green slime on this mission in the name of STEM education: It’s part of a new publicity campaign by the children’s television network to encourage young students to pursue science, tech and engineering fields.

Astronauts will get to play around with a bit of slime, which was made famous in the 1990s for drenching unwitting competitors during Nickelodeon game shows such as “Double Dare.”

They will capture video of how the slime moves in microgravity, and the material will be used to develop a curriculum for young students that could roll out as soon as September, said Andrew Machles, a vice president of public affairs at Viacom, which owns Nickelodeon.

Scientists have long known how water behaves in space: It forms hovering blobs that can be slurped up with a straw mid-air. But it’s not entirely clear how the slime will behave. It’s not even clear what it’s made of — Nickelodeon says the ingredients are a tightly held secret.

Machles declined to comment on the financial terms of its ISS experiment.

An Adidas soccer ball is also on board the SpaceX Dragon capsule.

“Observing and measuring the motion of soccer balls in microgravity improves understanding of the general behavior of free-flying objects,” NASA said in its description of the payload. “This could contribute to better design and use of free-flying objects such as small robots in spacecraft.”

Among the other research payloads headed for the space station is the first-ever bioprinter, which could use a person’s cells to “print” them new organs.