How do astronauts go to the bathroom in space? – UB Now: News and views for UB faculty and staff


Tracy Gregg, affiliate professor of geology, answers a problem for The Conversation’s “Curious Kids” characteristic.

No matter if you use a gap in the ground or a extravagant gold-plated bathroom, on Earth, gravity pulls your squander down and absent from you. For astronauts, “doing their duty” is a bit much more complex. With no gravity, any unfastened drops or dribbles could float out of the toilet. Which is not great for astronauts’ wellbeing, nor for the sensitive equipment within the place station.

I review volcanoes on other planets, and I’m fascinated in how people today can function in severe environments like room.

So how do you go to the toilet in place or on the Intercontinental Area Station? Carefully — and with suction.

In 1961, Alan Shepard turned the first American in place. His vacation was meant to be quick, so there was no program for pee. But the start was delayed for about 3 hours soon after Shepard climbed into the rocket. Inevitably, he questioned if he could exit the rocket to pee. In its place of wasting a lot more time, mission manage concluded that Shepard could properly pee inside of his spacesuit. The 1st American in space went up in damp underwear.

The good news is, there is a toilet on the area station these days. The primary toilet was built in 2000 for men and was challenging for women to use: You experienced to pee whilst standing up. To poop, astronauts applied thigh straps to sit on the tiny bathroom and to continue to keep a limited seal concerning their bottoms and the toilet seat. It did not operate really properly and was hard to maintain thoroughly clean.

So in 2018, NASA expended $23 million on a new and improved bathroom for astronauts on the Intercontinental Space Station. To get about the troubles of zero-gravity lavatory breaks, the new toilet is a specifically created vacuum bathroom. There are two elements: a hose with a funnel at the conclusion for peeing and a little lifted bathroom seat for pooping.

The toilet is total of handholds and footholds so that astronauts do not drift off in the middle of their organization. To pee, they can sit or stand and then keep the funnel and hose tightly versus their skin so that nothing leaks out. To poop, astronauts carry the toilet lid and sit on the seat — just like here on Earth. But this toilet starts suctioning as quickly as the lid is lifted to stop items from drifting absent — and to control the stink. To make positive there is a restricted healthy in between the rest room seat and the astronauts’ behinds, the toilet seat is scaled-down than the 1 in your dwelling.

Pee is more than 90% water. Considering that drinking water is large and can take up a great deal of house, it is improved to recycle pee fairly than convey up thoroughly clean drinking water from Earth. All astronaut pee is gathered and turned back again into cleanse, drinkable drinking water. Astronauts say that “Today’s espresso is tomorrow’s espresso!

At times, astronaut poop is introduced again to Earth for experts to analyze, but most of the time, bathroom waste — like poop — is burned. Poop is vacuumed into rubbish baggage that are put into airtight containers. Astronauts also place bathroom paper, wipes and gloves — gloves assist preserve anything thoroughly clean — in the containers, much too. The containers are then loaded into a cargo ship that introduced provides to the space station, and this ship is introduced at Earth and burns up in Earth’s higher atmosphere.

If you’ve at any time seen a taking pictures star, it may have been a meteorite burning up in Earth’s ambiance — or it could possibly have been flaming astronaut poo. And the next time you have to pee or poop, be thankful that you are carrying out it with gravity’s enable.

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