US astronauts drink recycled urine aboard space station but Russians refuse – NYT writer drinks NASA water distilled from the finest astronaut pee and sweat

US astronauts drink recycled urine aboard space station but Russians refuse:

American and Russian astronauts use separate water filtration systems on ISS, as Nasa astronauts also collect Russian urine when available to increase supply

What’s the difference between American and Russian astronauts on the International Space Station? The Americans drink their urine, the Russians don’t.

“It tastes like bottled water,” Layne Carter, water subsystem manager for the ISS at Nasa’s Marshall Space Flight Center told Bloomberg. “As long as you can psychologically get past the point that it’s recycled urine and condensate that comes out of the air.”

Condensate is the collected breath and sweat of the crew, shower runoff, and urine from animals on board the station. Specifically, 12 mice that came with the Japanese cargo ship, the Kounotori 5 or White Stork, that successfully docked on Monday.

Ninety-three percent of all the water on board is reclaimed, according to a video posted by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield while he was on the space station in 2013.

“We can recycle about 6,000 extra liters of water for the station each year,” Hadfield said.

While the Americans are the only ones who filter their urine, both sets of astronauts gather condensate from the air. They have separate water systems and have never agreed on how to filter their water, according to Bloomberg.

Since the launch of the Soviet Mir space station in 1986, the Russians have used silver in its ionic form. Nasa has made use of iodine since 1981, when the space shuttle program began. The Americans plan to start using silver since it doesn’t have to be filtered out before consumption, but Carter said he likes that the Americans and Russians employ different methods.

“It really makes a lot of sense to have dissimilar redundancies in the space station in case one of the systems has problems,” Carter told Bloomberg.

The station also has approximately 2,000 liters of backup water in case of an emergency. The water is split between the American and Russian sections of the station.

But the US water recycling system produces more than the Russians’ does. Nasa astronauts don’t just filter their own urine – they also use their Russian colleagues’.

“We collect it in bags, and then the crew hauls it over to the US side,” Carter told Bloomberg. “We don’t do 100% of the Russian urine. It depends on our time availability.”

In Hadfield’s video, he defended the consumption of filtered urine and condensate.

“Before you cringe at the thought of drinking your leftover wash water and your leftover urine, keep in mind that the water that we end up with is purer than most of the water that you drink at home,” he said. “That makes the International Space Station its own self-contained environment. That’s a critical step towards living for long periods off of planet Earth.”

NYT writer drinks NASA water distilled from the finest astronaut pee and sweat:

 Oh, what won’t intrepid NYT reporter John Schwartz do for space journalism! Snip:

There are many elements of [NASA’s current Space Shuttle Endeavor] mission, which is devoted to further construction of the station and improvements that will allow the station to double its crew size from three to six next year. But the gizmo that is getting the most attention is the “water recovery system,” which will recycle the station’s water supply. That’s right: urine, sweat in the air, waste water and other forms of moisture will be fed into the system, distilled and sent back to the tap. The system, created at a cost of about $250 million, will recycle about 93 percent of the water used aboard the station. The cost of lifting supplies up to orbit is so high, though, that NASA estimates the system could pay for itself in as little as two years. Similar systems would be essential to maintaining long-term bases on faraway outposts on the Moon and Mars.

The astronauts don’t have a problem with this system. As Sandra H. Magnus, one of the astronauts who will be among the first to drink water produced by the new system aboard the station, noted in a recent interview, our earthbound water has been endlessly filtered through bodies, evaporated and rained down again. “We drink recycled water every day,” she said, “on a little bit longer time scale.”

You’ll have to read the whole piece to learn how the stuff tastes.

Full article:

Tasting NASA’s Recycled Water

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — How does distilled urine and sweat taste?

Not bad, actually.

Here at Kennedy Space Center, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is getting ready to launch the shuttle Endeavour on a 15-day mission to the International Space Station.

There are many elements of this shuttle mission, which is devoted to further construction of the station and improvements that will allow the station to double its crew size from three to six next year. But the gizmo that is getting the most attention is the “water recovery system,” which will recycle the station’s water supply. That’s right: urine, sweat in the air, waste water and other forms of moisture will be fed into the system, distilled and sent back to the tap.

The system, created at a cost of about $250 million, will recycle about 93 percent of the water used aboard the station. The cost of lifting supplies up to orbit is so high, though, that NASA estimates the system could pay for itself in as little as two years. Similar systems would be essential to maintaining long-term bases on faraway outposts on the Moon and Mars.

The astronauts don’t have a problem with this system. As Sandra H. Magnus, one of the astronauts who will be among the first to drink water produced by the new system aboard the station, noted in a recent interview, our earthbound water has been endlessly filtered through bodies, evaporated and rained down again. “We drink recycled water every day,” she said, “on a little bit longer time scale.”

The system was developed at the Marshall Space Flight Center, and Robert Bagdigian, who led the project, brought some bottles with him to show to reporters. These were produced in 2005 from a test chamber in which Marshall employees not only used a toilet “to donate, if you will” liquids for the project, but also worked out to put sweat and moisture in the air.

The liquids were processed using the same kind of equipment that is going up on the shuttle, and then treated with iodine to kill germs and ensure that it could be stored over time. The station water will have the iodine removed at the tap.

At the time, the space program put on a number of blind taste tests with the processed waste water pitted against tap water that had been treated with the same process and against untreated tap water. The testers then gave taste scores to each sample. “We couldn’t see any statistical difference between the waters,” Mr. Bagdigian said.

So, again — how does it taste? Your intrepid reporter opened one of the bottles of “Purified Recycled Water” that Mr. Bagdigian brought with him. The wryly worded label was a little intimidating: “We use only the finest ingredients! Urine, Perspiration, Food Vapors, Bath Water, Simulated Animal Waste, and a touch of Iodine. No Carbs or Calories Added.”

With that as my verbal drum roll, I took a sip. Aside from a slight tang of iodine, it tasted like, well, water. I’ve had tap water that tasted much more like things I don’t want to think about.

I don’t think NASA’s answer to Poland Spring would ever be a big seller, but it has the distinction of being the most expensive bottled water on the planet — “and off the planet,” Mr. Bagdigan joked.

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