Aerodynamics: From Spaceships To Soccer, NASA Examines Airflow

With even the astronauts on the International Space Station spending some time playing micro-gravity soccer in honor of the World Cup, NASA has joined the fun. Though they did not aid in the design of the current World Cup soccer ball, scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center in California turned some of its technology to sports in an aerodynamically-analyzing effort to see what makes a soccer ball superior.

As reported by NASA, Rabi Mehta, their chief of the Experimental Aero-Physics Branch at Ames, claims, “Sports provide a great opportunity to introduce the next generation of researchers to our field of aerodynamics by showing them something they can relate to." Using a wind tunnel, a 17-inch water channel, fluorescent dye and blacklights, the air-flow patterns were assessed at different speeds regarding their interactions with the soccer ball.

The Brazuca, aka the latest soccer ball to feature at the World Cup, has been specially crafted to allow smoother air-flow than the previous spherical target, the Jabulani. Complaints from goaltenders about the Jabulani "knuckling" and creating an unpredictable flight path led to a re-assessment of the ball's design. The improved six-panel Brazuca design should allow for more precise flight patterns.
NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Steve Swanson take on German astronaut Alexander Gerst in the Above-The-World Cup

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