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NASA Space

Urine Passes NASA Taste Test 404

Posted by kdawson
from the not-mine dept.
Ponca City, We love you writes "Astronauts flying aboard space shuttle Endeavour are delivering a device to the International Space Station that may leave you wondering if NASA is taking recycling too far. Among the ship's cargo is a water regeneration system that distills, filters, ionizes, and oxidizes wastewater — including urine — into fresh water for drinking or, as one astronaut puts it, 'will make yesterday's coffee into today's coffee.' The US space agency spent $250M for the water recycling equipment but with the space shuttles due to retire in two years, NASA needed to make sure the station crew would have a good supply of fresh water. The Environmental Control and Life Support Systems uses a purification process called vapor compression distillation: urine is boiled until the water in it turns to steam. In space, there's an additional challenge: steam doesn't rise, so the entire distillation system is spun to create artificial gravity to separate the steam from the brine. The water has been thoroughly tested on Earth, including blind taste tests that pitted recycled urine with similarly treated tap water. 'Some people may think it's downright disgusting, but if it's done correctly, you process water that's purer than what you drink here on Earth,' said Endeavour astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper."
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Urine Passes NASA Taste Test

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  • HOWEVER (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FunkyRider (1128099) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:40PM (#25795905)
    you process water that's purer than what you drink here on Earth. - It might be the case physically/chemically, but not psychologically.... "Look, I'm drinking purified pee and it's tasty!" God...
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:42PM (#25795931) Homepage Journal

    Oh yeah, funny, astronaut pee. But for crying out loud (and losing valuable water in the process), what is so hard to understand about a closed system?

    "Going too far" is spending millions of dollars to send precious DHMO [dhmo.org] to the space station, when there are perfectly good pre-assembled dihydrogen monoxide molecules being blown out into the vacuum.

  • Childish (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:42PM (#25795937) Homepage Journal

    It's bad enough that the mainstream media has been acting like a bunch of prepubescent children over the urine recycling, but now Slashdot has to get into the game as well?

    "that may leave you wondering if NASA is taking recycling too far"

    Uh, nope, it doesn't leave me wondering that at all. In fact, when I first read about it I was rather surprised that the ISS wasn't recycling urine already. Any manned moon-base, or long-duration trip to reach Mars, would absolutely require the recycling of urine.

  • disgusting? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pescadero (1074454) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:43PM (#25795955)
    Why is that so disgusting? All the water you drink was probably pee at some point anyway.
  • by Titoxd (1116095) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:47PM (#25795997) Homepage
    Although it makes for a nice Beeb quip, no, it is not too far. Sending water into low-Earth orbit is not cheap (a launch delta-V of ~ 9 km/s) , and sending it to other places like the Moon and Mars is even more expensive. That's why it is necessary to begin testing and using this technology, where it is possible to actually send replenishment water in case something doesn't work properly.
  • Re:Neat (Score:2, Insightful)

    by siddesu (698447) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:52PM (#25796063)

    Not many grown ups on this site, obviously.

  • Re:HOWEVER (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chill (34294) on Monday November 17, 2008 @09:55PM (#25796113) Journal

    From your high userid I can identify you as a noob. For future reference, these types of comments are best posted ANONYMOUSLY. God help you if anyone knows your real name. I foresee a future employer doing a google search on your various aliases and THAT comment turning up.

  • Re:Neat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:02PM (#25796193)

    The dupes here on Slashdot don't get it that the entire planet is a closed system too. Let them have their Xboxes; when the time comes we'll use them for soylent green. Mmmmm, soylent green...

  • by Captain Splendid (673276) * <capsplendid.gmail@com> on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:14PM (#25796309) Homepage Journal
    Tell that to the guy in this movie

    WTF? You should have linked to Dune, [imdb.com] not frigging Waterworld! Now go hand in your geek card.
  • Re:Childish (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pi_rules (123171) on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:28PM (#25796453)

    In fact, when I first read about it I was rather surprised that the ISS wasn't recycling urine already.

    Same here.

    Isn't it pretty much the safest source of drinking water? You only need something that can handle things that are already in the bodies of the astronauts. We can safely assume none of them have any nasty viruses in them, and I'm pretty sure we don't have bacteria in our own urine, so you're down to getting the sodium and urea out of it I guess.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2008 @10:36PM (#25796533)
    Sure. On the other hand, we sweat because the heat of vaporisation helps cool the body by taking heat away as the sweat evaporates. So how are the fremen dumping heat so that they don't die of heatstroke? In the movie, the suits were black to suck up even more solar rays!

    Now sure, it gets pretty cold at night so if they had something with an amazingly high specific heat that they could use as a thermodynamic sink, that might work to average the day and night temperatures. But that would also be bloody heavy and not remotely man portable.
  • by spineboy (22918) on Monday November 17, 2008 @11:11PM (#25796789) Journal

    As the father post pointed out - it's basically a closed system. We've been breathing the same farts, drinking the same urine from the beginning - it's just that it's not so blatant as in the satellite.

  • by DMUTPeregrine (612791) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @12:05AM (#25797275) Journal
    That implies acknowledging the Dune movie. No true geek would do so, as the book is clearly superior. Thus, the waterworld link sidesteps the issue. This is not, of course, as bad as linking Starship Troopers or any reference whatsoever to Highlander II.
  • Re:Neat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@gmai l . com> on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @01:20AM (#25797879) Homepage Journal

    I used to have sewage reclamation plants in California as one of my clients. They take fresh sewage, separate it, clean it, and turn it back around as drinking water. It happens all the time.

    However, the toothbrush myth was debunked on Mythbusters. Toothbrushes kept closer to the toilet did not contain more bacteria. However, they did show that toothbrushes all over the place, even kept outside the bathroom (in the middle of the lab) had bacteria. They pretty much all had the same levels of bacteria.

  • by eggstasy (458692) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @04:35AM (#25798989) Journal

    Pfft, heres a real nerdy Dune link... the unfinished 1976 movie version:

    http://www.hotweird.com/jodorowsky/dune.html [hotweird.com]

    It was supposedly being done by illustrious gentlemen such as Salvador Dali and H.R. Giger, but ran out of money. It also had a rather weird and political take on Dune...

  • Re:Neat (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JamesP (688957) on Tuesday November 18, 2008 @09:48AM (#25800711)

    People do that because the hydraulic system (is not as good as in the US/etc and) gets clogged if you do that.

    For people who are used to it, it's no biggie. Yeah, I know, "excrement ridden", sounds gross, but it's only a matter of taking it, closing the bag and disposing it.

Premature optimization is the root of all evil. -- D.E. Knuth

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