NASA studies recycling astronaut waste water

NASA scientists are testing water treatment technology that would allow astronauts to convert both sweat and urine into drinkable water. Employees at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., have begun a six-week trial of the latest water treatment equipment in hopes it will allow missions to the moon and later Mars to be extended without the expense of launching resupply ships. The new system, called the Exploration Water Recovery System, is a combination of air- and water-purification technologies designed to squeeze every last drop of water from physical activity and bodily functions.

For the study, 20 employees exercise an hour a day on treadmills, rowing machines and other equipment to generate water vapour through perspiration and respiration. Individuals also donate urine as part of the test. NASA is scheduled to install a Russian-built toilet system that can turn urine into drinking water on the International Space Station. The toilet, which costs $19 million US, will be delivered to the station in 2008. NASA's research is part of the space agency's larger plan to establish a permanent settlement on the moon by the year 2024. It's a challenge, said exploration life support project manager Monsi Roman, because the moon lies over 360,000 kilometres away.

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News source: CBC News

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13 Comments

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Sure they are doing this already. What the article doesn't say is that it's bloody cheap because it uses 8 filters that are connected to each other with a small tube. That's it. They are not only developing it for use in space for for a really cheap way to get drinkable water to really poor communities and nations.

That was really a **** poor article, the Beyond Tomorrow clip was a lot better.

Settlement on the moon in 2024? What for? How 'bout one on Mars? I think I'm starting to believe what someone said the letters NASA stand for: No more Astronauts in Space Again

Holy crap, they've developed wierding modules too!! That's exactly what I thought when I read the first sentence. Then I read the rest and thought, "Aw, it's just an expensive toilet. NASA couldn't even get stillsuits right."

Oh, for those of you that have absolutely no idea what we are referencing... Look Here.

ahhell said,
I thought they were already doing this????

Some water is recycled and recirculated for temperature regulation or cleaning. However, potable water goes up with every supply mission. The European Space Agency is nearing launch of the Automated Transfer Vehicle, scheduled to go up in January 2008, which will include a tank for up to 840kg of water. This is an improvement over the 420kg capacity of the Progress M, and the 300kg capacity of the Progress M1.

Waste water that is too contaminated to be safely filtered is loaded onto Progress modules and sent to burn up on re-entry.

i won't drink it... really technology isn't perfect...
unless its naturally purify...i would still have in mind it was once urine

PermaSt0ne said,
your urine is distilled and not harmful to you in the first place...

I think you mean to suggest that urine is sterile. However, suggesting that it's not harmful to you is false, as some microorganisms that exist in the urinary tract can be carried with urine. In addition, numerous toxins are excreted through urine, so whatever lead, arsenic, alcohol, or other poisonous substances your body is trying to get rid of will be in there, too. This doesn't include excess potassium, sodium, and other minerals that your body no longer needs. This is why NASA wants to find ways of filtering out everything.

Will a glass of it harm you if you're healthy? Probably not. Is it a good idea to drink it, even if you do have a predilection for salty beverages? Again, probably not.