Eww! Can you believe this is how astronauts live?

By admin
27 May 2016

5 gross things astronauts on the International Space Station have to live through

And you wished you were an astronaut?

1. They recycle urine and sweat – then drink it

Astronauts aboard the IRS drinking water Astronauts on the IRS having a sip of water previously known as urine. Picture: NASA

Because it is very expensive to transport from Earth, water is incredibly valuable on the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS has about 2 000 litres of backup water in case of an emergency, but mostly the American and European astronauts recycle – and this includes reusing urine, washing water and condensation. By the way, condensation consists of sweat and the water vapour produced by breathing...

“It tastes just like bottled water,” Layne Carter, water subsystem manager for the ISS, assured the business channel Bloomberg.  

In fact, the purification system is so sophisticated that “the water we end up with is purer than most of the water at home”, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield said.

If the American astronauts are lucky, they can also score some Russian urine, because the Russians don’t recycle theirs – which is one of the reasons why the Americans have a larger water supply. The Russian loo is in another module of the space station so the Americans have to haul bags of urine from the Russian to the American side.

“Good to the last drop! Making pee portable and turning it into coffee,” was the caption American astronaut Scott Kelly gave to the picture of a drop from the ISS coffee machine he tweeted last year.

Watch the video below see how water is recycled and filtered on the ISS.

Read more: 5 of the coolest experiments done on the International Space Station

2. They wear nappies

Collage: At the top astronauts on a spacewallk outside the ISS, at the bottom two versions of space nappies. TOP: Astronauts have to wear nappies when spacewalking. BELOW: Two versions of the Maxiumum Absorbent Garment. Pictures: NASA

Doing a space walk is an intricate affair and can last up to seven hours. If you have to go, you can’t just quickly dash back into the space station. So the first garment an astronaut puts on when he or she dresses in their R180 million high-tech spacewalk suit, is an old-fashioned nappy. Yes, almost like the ones babies wear. Of course they don’t call it a nappy, it goes by the fancy name of Maximum Absorbent Garment (MAG). The MAG can absorb both urine and faeces and is pulled up like pants. But we are pretty sure the clever astronauts go to the loo before they exit the space station, and that the nappy – sorry, MAG – is just for emergencies...

3. They wear the same underwear for days on end

Picture of robotic arm releasing garbage craft into space Dirty washing and other garbage are packed into a capsule (which is actually a mini spacecraft) and launched into space by one of the ISS's robotic arms. It is set on course for Earth but burns up in Earth's atmosphere. This "garbage can" of 1,5 ton was released into space above Bolivia. Picture: NASA

Washing clothes with water is impossible in a weightless environment and there is not enough room to store fresh underwear and clothes for every day.

Dirty laundry is stored in plastic bags and chucked into space with the trash to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. In an interview in February 2013, astronaut Don Pettit revealed that he changed his underwear once every three to four days, and that he was still wearing the same pair of shorts he had been wearing since he arrived at the space station in November 2012! The only good news is that as astronauts float rather than walk or run, they don’t get as sweaty and dirty as on Earth.

4. Dirty underwear is used to grow plants

Picture of green plants in a glass box Don Pettit's underwear veggies. Picture: NASA

Pettit used an old pair of underwear to sprout some tomato and basil seeds, since there is no soil in space. “To construct my planter, a spherical core was needed. And old pair of underwear worked well,” he wrote in the blog he kept. Thanks to that and some gauze, the seeds sprouted within two days but later withered and died. We are unsurprised.

 5.  Astronauts have to watch how on a screen how they you-know-what

Picture where you see the space station toilet and the legs of an astronaut drifting above it. An astronaut drifting above the Space Station loo. Picture: NASA

The toilets on the ISS have a very narrow opening (just over 10 cm wide) and astronauts have to go through potty training on Earth because if anything escapes from the loo and floats around in the air, the result will be not only yucky but also very dangerous as it can damage the sophisticated equipment on the ISS.

So when training to poop, astronauts have to keep their eye on a screen in front of the loo that is connected to a camera inside the toilet – this allows them to check that their alignment is perfect! If you want to know more about the toilets on the International Space Station, why not do a virtual tour of the ISS by clicking on this video? Hmm... are you still sure you want to be an astronaut?

Speaking of space . . .

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An astronaut holding the cover of YOU Gateway to Space

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