Extreme recycling

A new toilet is being delivered to the International Space Station as we speak:

“Human sweat, excess water from tooth brushing, and water extracted from the humid spaceship interior have long been reprocessed into something astronauts can consume. [URGH…. definitely feeling queasy] But urine has gone to waste, tossed overboard (or vented, as NASA puts it), an egregious inefficiency in the great desert of space.” (Washington Post)

The new system will be able to convert urine into drinking water:

“Standing between the urine and the consumable end product are muscular apparatus that distill, filter, heat and chemically transmogrify the liquid. The instruments include a catalytic reactor, a gas separator, multi-filtration beds, a particulate filter, a reactor health sensor, a microbial check valve, a fluids control and pump assembly, and a pressure control and purge assembly. This removes almost all the organic molecules from the liquid.” (Washington Post)

They’re going to test it for a bit in space to make sure that it’s completely safe and sufficiently pleasant-tasting. (And most likely to counsel crew members who might have to overcome psychological barriers to drinking recycled bodily liquids!)

It’s a pretty brilliant idea, actually. I wonder whether they could use some of this technology on Earth?

In addition to the fancy new toilet, space shuttle Endeavour is delivering a new fridge (the current one is being used to store test tubes etc.) and exercise equipment. AND a new astronaut, Sandra Magnus, who will be blogging about her experiences on the ISS over the next couple of months: Spacebook. Definitely a blog to watch!

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