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Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone May 8, 2023

NASA astronaut dropped the ball, but video shows only part of the story

If Your Time is short

  • A NASA astronaut on the International Space Station dropped a plastic globe during a 2021 livestream video, pushing it down and out of the camera frame with his arm motion.

  • The full video shows the globe floating back into the frame seconds later, as well as the globe and microphones floating at other times during the event.

A video on social media claimed NASA astronauts fumbled a ball and proved to the world that the International Space Station is really just a television studio here on Earth. But the video doesn’t tell the full story. 

"Watch the ball," reads text overlaid on a May 8 Instagram video, which shows five astronauts, one holding a globe. Text below the video read, "NASA Actornauts ‘drop the ball’ inside the ISS TV studio on Earth."

The Instagram video was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The astronauts in the video — four from NASA and one from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency — were participating in a livestream Earth Day Q&A on April 21, 2021, hosted by singer Shawn Mendes. From the International Space Station, they fielded questions from children around the world.

Though the video itself is 2 years old, it’s still being used in false social media claims that it shows space exploration isn’t real.

@politifact Replying to @Mayajavaid Did NASA drop the ball? No, this video of an astronaut fumbling a plastic globe isn't proof that the International Space Station is a TV studio or that the astronauts were acting. #nasa #space #conspiracy #gravity #iss #astronaut #factcheck #fyp #learnontiktok ♬ Astro Beat - Staysee

In the Instagram video clip, Michael Hopkins, the NASA astronaut on the far right, is holding a plastic globe as he answers a question about whether someone can see hurricanes from space.

He held a microphone in his left hand, while holding the globe with his left arm, pressing it against his body. He lost control of the globe, which fell down and out of the frame.

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That’s where the clip ends; the Instagram video cuts to a laughing man saying, "Got eeem." The narrator then returned and said the ball drop proves the astronauts are in a TV studio, not a weightless environment.

But the video is misleading. It shows Hopkins’ arm move downward as he fumbled the globe, pushing the globe in that direction.

Just a few seconds more of the full video — available on NASA’s YouTube page — shows what really happened. Shortly after the globe drops from view, it resurfaces, floating up on the frame’s right side at the 18:53 mark of the video below.

In the full video, the globe first appeared when Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi grabbed it from an area behind him. You can see the globe floating in the air while another astronaut answers a question. The globe moved down, up and in place, depending on the hand motions of the astronauts who touched it.

Several times in the video, you can see the microphone floating in space as the astronauts pass it to one another.

An Instagram video claimed that a plastic globe dropped by an astronaut shows that the video of the International Space Station was filmed in a TV studio. But the video showed only part of the story. The full video showed the globe floating up into the frame a few seconds later. It also showed the globe and microphones floating at separate points. 

The claim is False.

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NASA astronaut dropped the ball, but video shows only part of the story

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