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NASA: 98% of Astronauts’ Body Fluids Recyclable for Drinking

June 28, 2023 | By Kali Girl

NASA has successfully achieved the seemingly stomach-churning feat of recycling urine into clean drinking water, ABC News. According to the federal agency, astronauts aboard the International Space Station have been able to recover an impressive 98% of the water they take into space by recycling various bodily fluids, from urine to sweat.

With longer missions on the horizon, such as those to the moon and beyond, NASA engineers have been diligently addressing the challenge of meeting astronauts’ basic needs without relying on resupply missions. This includes developing innovative methods to recycle essential resources like food, air, and water.

To ensure the well-being of every crew member, including their hydration, food preparation, and personal hygiene needs like brushing teeth, a daily allocation of about one gallon of water per person has been implemented. This measure guarantees that everyone on board has their essential water requirements fulfilled.

“This is a very important step forward in the evolution of life support systems,” said Christopher Brown, a member of the team at Johnson Space Center that manages the space station’s life support system. “Let’s say you collect 100 pounds of water on the station. You lose two pounds of that and the other 98% just keeps going around and around. Keeping that running is a pretty awesome achievement.”

Recycling on the International Space Station (ISS) is a game-changer, thanks to the innovative Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS). This advanced system ensures a constant supply of clean air and water for the astronauts.

One standout feature of the ECLSS is the Water Recovery System, which plays a vital role in producing drinkable water. The state-of-the-art dehumidifiers are utilized to capture moisture from the crew’s breath and perspiration. This captured moisture is then ingeniously converted into refreshing drinking water.

According to NASA, the innovative system involves a preliminary treatment of urine, followed by advanced technology to transform it into reusable water. Subsequently, the gathered water undergoes filtration to eliminate any lingering impurities.

Sensors are utilized to detect any contaminants, and if the water fails to meet drinking standards, it undergoes further processing. Iodine is included in the water approved by the sensors to hinder any microbial growth. The treated water is subsequently stored until it is needed by the crew.

Jill Williamson, the water subsystems manager of the Environmental Control and Life Support System said, “The crew is not drinking urine; they are drinking water that has been reclaimed, filtered and cleaned such that it is cleaner than what we drink here on Earth.” “We have a lot of processes in place and a lot of ground testing to provide confidence that we are producing clean, potable water.”

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