I created the reduced-gravity-sports tag because I see it as both technically/scientifically interesting, and likely to be really big in the future.

So now I'd like to ask: *Are there any examples of a reduced-gravity sporting event or match being played in space?*

Something that would be played differently due to the different acceleration experienced in space.

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    Do "sports" mean physical activity sports only? Because intellectual sports surely were performed is space. For example astronaut Don Petitt liked to play chess by email with NASA workers when he was on ISS.. – Heopps Aug 22 at 10:49
  • @Heopps I'm interested in the "reduced-gravity" variety, something that would be played differently because of the difference in gravity (thus the tag). I'll edit the question to make this clearer. Thanks! – uhoh Aug 22 at 11:46
  • Can't wait for NASCAR in space. :) – Don Branson Sep 12 at 19:16
  • @DonBranson there's a bit of a discussion of driving fast in the "retrograde" direction around an O'Neill cylinder in comments below this answer but I think it would be great if someone asked something like "What would NASCAR in space be like" to explore this further! (also a bit of discussion about driving and inertia below this answer) – uhoh Sep 13 at 1:20

ISS expedition 53/54 crewmembers played badminton.

Video:

  • I love it, thanks! – uhoh Sep 12 at 16:43

Some informal lunar sports-adjacent activity occurred on Apollo 14:

[Al] Shepard brought along a six iron golf club head which he could attach to the handle of a lunar excavation tool, and two golf balls, and took several one-handed swings (due to the limited flexibility of the EVA suit). He exuberantly exclaimed that the second ball went "miles and miles and miles" in the low lunar gravity, but later estimated the distance as 200 to 400 yards (180 to 370 m). [Edgar] Mitchell then threw a lunar scoop handle as if it were a javelin.

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    +1 An important piece of space history! I'm not 100% sure this count's as sports, unless he was aiming at something, or going for "a crater in one" ;-) – uhoh Aug 22 at 1:54

Sunita Williams ran the Boston Marathon in the ISS.

Tim Peake ran the London Marathon in the ISS.

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source

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    I'd totally forgotten about running. I like item #5 in your source: "On one side where the gravity in itself is challenging for the space runners, the temperature was far better than what their counterparts in London and Boston were facing. Despite that, the astronauts faced great odds due to the loss of muscle during their stay at the International Space Station." – uhoh Aug 22 at 3:21
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    I would bet anything that people have performed impromtu gymastics or thrown something back and forth. There is the famous video of the three crewmembers running around Skylab too. – Organic Marble Aug 22 at 3:23
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    I like your answer, because running a marathon has a well defined objective, finishing a specified course in the shortest time you can. – uhoh Aug 22 at 3:40
  • Running on a treadmill in zero gravity is a very different thing to running a real Marthon course on Earth. The virtual distance, speed and duration may be the same, but the physical effort is different. – Uwe Aug 22 at 9:46

update: Finally, it's on the NASA Johnson YouTube channel! Tennis in Space:

Expedition 56 crew members including NASA astronauts Drew Feustel, Ricky Arnold, and Serena Auñón-Chancellor, and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst embark upon a tennis match in space aboard the International Space Station.

Commander Drew Feustel commented on the match saying, “Our match in space was pretty challenging due to the fact that we are in a microgravity environment. We did have a net, but the rules allowed the ball to go over or under the net. Also, there was no requirement for us to stay on the ground, so to speak, so we had the freedom to play on the walls, ceiling, or floor. The game space was a bit cramped so we could not really smack the ball without making it unplayable for our opponents. Also, we did not observe a service or base line or any lines for that matter. We just did not have them. We made a lot of modifications, including to the racquets.”


There was a recent and heavily hyped "tennis match in space" as part of a staged event to hype the beginning of the US Open tennis tournament. To make it even weirder, it was projected on the Unisphere in Flushing Meadows, NY, which is incidentally Homer Simpsons's favorite place to go in the greater NY metropolitan area (GIF and Video thereof).

See the US Open page Del Potro Talks Tennis Strategy With An Astronaut In Space where you can see NASA Astronaut A.J. (Drew) Feustel talk with Tennis player Juan M. del Potro.

See also Space.com's Tennis in Space, Anyone? Astronauts Have a Ball During Historic Match and also Astronauts Will Play the First-Ever Tennis Match in Space Tonight! Watch It Live

Here is a screenshot showing Feustel hitting a tennis ball on the ISS being bizarrely projected on the Unisphere: https://i.stack.imgur.com/7IEhI.jpg

Here is another video showing Feustel in an earlier interview, and playing tennis in space!

Starting at 24:24 he explains some of the physics of trying to play tennis in space in a very thoughtful and informative way. The discussion is too long for me to transcribe right now, I may make an attempt later if I have more time.

As a thought experiment a few years ago I came up with a sport for low earth orbit and I'm trying to find where I wrote down the rules and can't. So I'll do my best to recall.

The name of the game was spaceball. Which is ironic because the game doesn't use a ball.

There are two teams in an arena that is approximately 18 feet in diameter and can be any length.

One player from each team is essentially the "ball" and each team has to get their ball in the opposing team's hoop.

The hoops are at both ends of the compartment in the center.

Also, the compartment is rotating to give some force along the outside of the compartment.

  • While that's nice to know, "...any examples... being played in space?" asks for examples of things that actually happened. So while I think this could be a comment, it isn't an answer to the question. – uhoh Sep 14 at 4:34
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    Agreed, it was really late at night and this came in a push notification so I didn't read it carefully. – brysgo Sep 14 at 10:26

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