HOUSTON - Astronaut James Bagian told Mission Control to pick a card, any card, and performed what may have been the first magic trick in space.
After spending the day investigating the mysteries of weightlessness, Bagian presented a puzzle of his own last night. Bagian, a physician, is part of a team conducting medical tests aboard the space shuttle Columbia.
Bagian had left an unopened deck of cards at Mission Control before leaving Earth last week and took another deck with him.
Aided by his "lovely assistant," pilot Sidney Gutierrez, Bagian talked Mission Control communicator Marsha Ivins through the trick. She opened the deck in view of TV cameras, shuffled the cards and put the pile on a console.
"We knew when we came on this mission that when you get to fly at five miles a second, you get a certain prescience, and you can tell the future," Bagian said.
Bagian said that before blastoff he picked a card out of his deck and placed it in the opposite direction. He said it would match the one picked at Mission Control.
Ivins picked the four of spades.
Bagian then displayed his deck to show one card facing down. Gutierrez pulled it from the deck and slowly flipped it over - the four of spades.
"A big round of applause! That's truly incredible!" Ivins exclaimed. "Amazing."
The seven astronauts today began a sixth day of orbital experiments to help scientists understand the effects of weightlessness on the body. Shuttle commander Bryan O'Connor said his crew has been working "awful hard" and could use a break tomorrow.
"Give us a chance to do some of the color TV stuff (Earth observations) that got deleted and look out the windows and see their hometowns and enjoy being in space a little bit," O'Connor told Mission Control.