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NASA Space

Space Station Crew Drinks Recycled Urine 349

An anonymous reader writes "After the astronauts on the International Space Station finished up their communications with Space Shuttle Atlantis yesterday, the crew on the Space Station did something that no other astronaut has ever done before — drank recycled urine and sweat. The previous shuttle crew that recently returned to Earth brought back samples of the recycled water to make sure it was safe to drink, and all tests came back fine. So on Wednesday, the crew took their recycled urine and said 'cheers' together and toasted the researches and scientists that made the Urine Recycler possible. After drinking the water, they said the taste was great! They also said the water came with labels on it that said 'drink this when real water is over 200 miles away.'"
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Space Station Crew Drinks Recycled Urine

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  • by MeNotU ( 1362683 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:14AM (#28039183)
    What a (lack of) drag!
  • Nonsense. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:14AM (#28039189) Homepage

    > ...the crew on the Space Station did something that no other astronaut has ever done
    > before -- drank recycled urine and sweat.

    Everyone drinks recycled urine and sweat every day.

    • Re:Nonsense. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Forge ( 2456 ) <{kevinforge} {at} {gmail.com}> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:21AM (#28039309) Homepage Journal
      True. We also drink recycled Blood, vomit, pus and other miscellaneous bodily fluids.

      For those who read/watched Dune, the fremins just do in minutes with a machine what nature dose for us in months with sunlight.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by karmaflux ( 148909 )
      This is artificially recycled urine and sweat, you twit.
    • Re:Nonsense. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cyrano de Maniac ( 60961 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:42AM (#28039685)

      > Everyone drinks recycled urine and sweat every day.

      While a good point, this may not be quite as true in the case of the astronauts aboard ISS.

      A large portion of the water delivered to ISS comes from the Space Shuttle as it combusts liquid hydrogen to power itself while docked. Depending on the source of the liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel (i.e. Is it generated from electrolysis of water? Condensed directly from the atmosphere? etc), it's possible a significant portion of their water supply has never been urine or sweat before.

      And even if the liquid hydrogen and oxygen was water previously, do water molecules generated from hydrogen combustion really count as "recycled"?

      -- CdM

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Regardless, the filtering process is more than adequate to make the water safe. The fact that astronauts tend to be scientists of at least a reasonable caliber, they'll no doubt understand the science behind it and have no trouble drinking it.

        I worked with water filtration in the past and, while I might hesitate slightly on my first sip, I'd have no issue drinking it. I'd bet it's significantly cleaner than most water flowing through pipes on earth.

    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )

      You beat me to it..

      Everything we eat/drink is recycled.

    • We eat poo every day too.

      The poo of the antelope, the poo of the giraffe.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILe0V8380bs [youtube.com]

    • Yes, what he said. Life, in it's various forms, has consumed and recycled every drop of water on this earth a myriad of times. It isn't necessary for water to evaporate into the atmosphere and fall again as rain to be "purified".

  • If it's 2 hydrogen bonded to 1 oxygen in the right form it's "real water"

    Honestly, the Astronauts should be some that would not have the silly reaction to drinking treated water.

    • by caffeinemessiah ( 918089 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:17AM (#28039237) Journal

      If it's 2 hydrogen bonded to 1 oxygen in the right form it's "real water" Honestly, the Astronauts should be some that would not have the silly reaction to drinking treated water.

      Certainly, but 2 hydrogen bonded to 1 oxygen exists in ripe form in your toilet as well, it's more a question of the additives. And if we did NOT feel an instinctive revulsion towards our own excrement, we would have been wiped out as a species a long time ago after eating our own toxic feces (that rhymes, too). So give those space monkey a break, eh?

    • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:23AM (#28039337)
      If someone takes a piss in the vat at the Coca-Cola plant, it's still "real Coca-Cola" to a high empirical degree, but I think you'd still appreciate the psychological distinction between that Coca-Cola and the stuff that came out beforehand. Likewise there's a strong innate (unlearned) notion of contamination in humans that makes this "purified urine" rather than "ever so slightly contaminated water" from the astronauts' perspective.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:30AM (#28039489)

        Likewise there's a strong innate (unlearned) notion of contamination in humans

        I'd like to see some evidence for that.

        If you you have little kids, or have spent any time with them, you'd know that they'll happily put anything in their mouths if you don't stop them. The idea of contamination is deliberately taught to children, using words like "icky," "yucky," and "ohmigodwhatisthatinyourhand."

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Sockatume ( 732728 )
          I think it's still an open question as to whether disgust is innate, but once a child it, the idea of a disgusting object "contaminating" another is obtained more or less immediately. That's not something we teach kids particularly early, and it's actually a rather abstract notion. I don't have access to sociology journals from here unfortunately and it's been a while since I read much about it, so things could've moved on.
        • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @11:11AM (#28040111) Homepage

          If you you have little kids, or have spent any time with them, you'd know that they'll happily put anything in their mouths if you don't stop them. The idea of contamination is deliberately taught to children, using words like "icky," "yucky," and "ohmigodwhatisthatinyourhand."

          Which is ironic when you consider that parents frequently have to overcome previously decided upon levels of contamination to function as a parent. To use myself as an example, during my wife's first pregnancy test, my job was to hold the filled urine cup and dip the test strip in. I didn't even have to touch the urine, but the thought of it being in a cup so close to me made me nauseous.

          Now, after being a parent to two boys, I can eat lunch, stop to change a poop-filled diaper, and then resume eating lunch (after washing my hands of course!). The idea of changing a poop-filled diaper or wiping the bottom of a young child does not make me nauseous at all. Sometimes I'll forget the different parent-nonparent revulsion levels and tell stories that are perfectly ok by parent standards but make non-parents run to the nearest bathroom to hurl. This can be useful if your coworker brought in something that you'd like. "Hey, that's a nice pudding cup... Though it kind of reminds me of my son's diaper yesterday. I opened it up and stuff just spilled out everywhere and... what's that? You don't feel like pudding anymore? I guess I can eat it."

          Just don't ask to hear my mustard story!

      • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:57AM (#28039891) Journal

        If someone takes a piss in the vat

        What does Budweiser have to do with the ISS?

      • by x2A ( 858210 )

        "Likewise there's a strong innate (unlearned) notion of contamination in humans that..."

        Oh, no, we learnt it, not even that long ago in the grand scheme of things. I think the British lead the way in many respects, I recall seeing a thing on tv saying how Britian went through a period of winning many battles simply by pushing out standards of cleanliness to their soldiers which meant they were no longer suffering the extremes of diarrhea as enemy soldiers were... but at this moment, I struggle to find any c

      • by MagicM ( 85041 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @11:45AM (#28040599)
        There is no such thing as "real Coca-Cola". Or if there is, the majority of what goes for "Coca-Cola" isn't "real Coca-Cola".

        Coca-Cola is created from concentrate or syrup. This concentrate is shipped to bottlers who add their own sweetners and other additives, which causes local variations. Then it is combined with water from different sources, causing even more variations. Coca-Cola, even in a can or bottle, tastes differently all over the place.

        Then add to that the abomination that is fountain-based Coca-Cola, which is syrup mixed with carbonated tap water. This means that the Coca-Cola from your local city-water-fed McDonald's tastes differently from the Coca-Cola served in the well-water-fed McDonald's just out of town.

        You should count yourself lucky if you've ever had two servings of Coca-Cola that tasted the same.

        </rant type="pet peeve">
        • Wow, you are really mistaken. The tastes of the water going into the mix is heavily controlled for taste. Even to the point where some plants have there won water treatment system on top of a cities water treatment system.
          So like most people on /, while technically true, not practically an issue.
          Save fountain drinks; which really to heavily on the min. wage worker remembering to check the mix.

          "You should count yourself lucky if you've ever had two servings of Coca-Cola that tasted the same."
          That is just stupid. even if what you said was true to a high degree of practicality, most people drink coke from the same location. It's not like every can in an 8 pack came from a different part of the world.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      Is there a "wrong form" for 2 hydrogen bonded to 1 oxygen? I mean, unless you are adding more elements into the mix, I'm pretty sure that as a discrete molecule, 2 hydrogen and one oxygen bonded together is always water. And, afaik, it always happens the same way.... at an angle of about 104 degrees, if I remember correctly.
    • by qoncept ( 599709 )
      After I read "real" I was surprised how far I could scroll down without reading such a "look what I caught!" comment. "Real" just rolls off the tongue so much better than "purified urine." Get a life.
  • Living in a desert (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mc1138 ( 718275 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:15AM (#28039197) Homepage
    While it may not seem like it the space station is essentially a desert with very little water. This sort of situation really makes it important to loose as little water as possible, and as the astronauts even said when properly treated it tastes great!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Sechr Nibw ( 1278786 )
      I would think it would make it important to loose your water into the proper receptacle, actually. It doesn't matter if you loose a lot or loose a little, just as long as you loose it into the right place!
      • Humidity must be a problem on space stations; people lose water due to respiration, let alone perspiration. Presumably there is somewhere a dehumidifier. Perhaps the atmosphere recycler does that job? Hmm, no, looks like there's purpose-built modules.

    • Slightly tangy? like lemonade

  • Or is that belly below the bar?

    Whatever though, ur in e right place.

  • by COMON$ ( 806135 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:20AM (#28039293) Journal
    To my Stillsuit...bring on the worms...
  • Water does have a taste - it tastes like... water!

    All water that isn't pure hydrogen and oxygen also has a flavor derived from the levels of various trace minerals and additives in it. Just because you can't taste something doesn't mean I can't!
    • Could I interest you in some 100% oxygen-free virgin-silicon fiber HDMI cables with gold-plated connectors? A bargain at $750 per meter! It'll improve the sound of your iPod to no end! Warmer, richer, more spacial sound from your genuine Apple-brand earbuds!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      so your not actually tasting the water, just the minerals

      • we all know what water tastes like

        but that taste is actually mouthfeel + the taste of various anions and cations (calcium, magnesium, chloride, etc)

        steam distilled water actually doesn't taste like "water"

        and high end spring water, especially the naturally carbonated variety, tastes like "soda"

  • by Tim4444 ( 1122173 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:23AM (#28039345)
    it's probably cleaner than the water in the Hudson...
  • Tastes Great!

    Less Filling!
  • You think that at this point no one in the Astronaut program, yet alone living in a metropolitan region, has drank water recycled from urine?

    Be real. This happens all the time.

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:34AM (#28039563)
    Water abstracted from rivers that are fed from treatment plants. That contains water from recycled urine. As does rainwater, when urine evapourates into clouds, which then condense into rainfall.

    Sadly this story has all the self conscious immaturity you'd expect from a 12 year-old, sniggering because it's about pee. Whatever happened to the grown-ups section of Slashdot?

    • but i think you'd have a problem if someone gave you a shit pancake to eat, saying it was ok, it was chemically treated to be nutritious and delicious

      there is meaning in the massive amount of time and the massive natural filtration that goes into the process you describe, and the artificial tiny distance described in the article between what comes out your ass or your dick, and what winds up in your cup and on your plate

      when that distance is reduced via technology, the squeamishness you haughtily assume to

  • Water World (Score:2, Funny)

    by bamboo7 ( 1411009 )
    Kevin Costner paves the way for technological innovation. I'd quote the movie but for some reason no good lines spring to mind.
  • by DarrenBaker ( 322210 ) <darren@@@flim...net> on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:42AM (#28039683) Homepage

    I refuse to drink nature's water... Fish fuck in it.

  • not sure... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ilblissli ( 1480165 )
    I'm really not sure why this is news worthy. Recycled water has been around forever. When I was a little kid I was first introduced to recycled water when my city decided to start a reclaimed water system to be used or lawn irrigation. This was to help stop our aquifer from being depleted so quickly for frivolous stuff like watering the grass. When they proposed this new system one of the water treatment people drank a glass of recycled water to prove to everyone that it was completely safe and would not
  • by Heartz ( 562803 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @10:50AM (#28039799) Homepage
    All about New Water http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NEWater [wikipedia.org] . Singaporeans have been drinking from Malaysian waste for years...
  • I've been doing that on this planet for years !

  • I would think providing simple pure water would be easier than trying to stock extra supplies to re-mineralize it and, frankly, I prefer the taste of distilled or purified water myself. So-called "drinking" water tastes rather flat and unappealing to me.

  • by bobdotorg ( 598873 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @11:05AM (#28040055)

    It's pee. Soylent Yellow is made out of pee. They're making our drink out of pee. Next thing they'll be breeding us like cattle for poo. You've gotta tell them. You've gotta tell them!

  • by Alzheimers ( 467217 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @11:13AM (#28040149)

    Put it in a can labeled 'Coors'

    Most people wouldn't be able to taste the difference anyway.

  • Just a thought; their teeth may become more whiter [wikipedia.org] for it?

  • Does this mean they'll stop serving asparagus on the Space Station? I doubt this fancy pants purification process could get rid of that smell from the urine.
  • So, now we go from Bear Whiz Beer to Astronaut Whiz Beer?
  • That's not real Jarate!

  • FUD (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Thaelon ( 250687 )

    "Recycled sweat & urine" is basically FUD.

    Sweat is just water with salt, some oils and trace amounts of other chemicals. Urine is just water with urea, salt, and trace amounts of other chemicals.

    If you thoroughly remove these other ingredients it's not really appropriate to call it "recycled urine/sweat" because it no longer contains the chemicals that make it those things. It would be like taking some kool-aid, boiling it, extracting the steam and calling it recycled kool-aid or de-kool-aided-water.

  • drink unrecycled urine.

  • by NevermindPhreak ( 568683 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @12:03PM (#28040861)

    "Is it necessary for me to drink my own urine? No, but I do it anyway, because it's sterile and I like the taste."

  • by deft ( 253558 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @12:10PM (#28040951) Homepage

    Here's a video chad carter did on the development of this system Chads a trained physicist and a improv actor here in LA... brilliant. I laugh every time.

    That's Not Tang: The NASA Urine Recycler took 10 years to develop. Watch the testing videos.

    http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/e7286d6d84/thats-not-tang-from-fod-team [funnyordie.com]

  • As the astronauts had their first drink of recycled urine, the guys on the ground asked them how they felt about the new toilet's ability to reclaim pure, fresh water from crewmembers' urine:

    "Wait, is that what you guys just sent up here? We haven't installed it yet..."

  • by Anonymous Struct ( 660658 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @02:46PM (#28043663)
    I'm going to be an astronaut^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H fireman!!

Machines take me by surprise with great frequency. - Alan Turing