How do they process body waste in space?

03 September 2013

Question

How do they process body waste in space?

Answer

Dominic - Body waste in space, well in fact, a lot of it, you ship back to the earth now. If you're on the International Space Station then you have these what are called progress spacecraft that come every month or so and they'd leave new supplies, food, etc. And then once you've taken the food off those, you basically put the body waste back in there and then you send it back to the earth. Things like water, you don't really want to be transporting large masses of water around. So, there is actually a process on the space station where you take the wee from the astronauts and you can extract drinking water from that and then the other constituents of that pee, you just put back in that spacecraft and send back to earth. Historically, back in the Apollo era, you would just throw it overboard basically and you would have these ice crystals of human waste, flying off the side of these Apollo spacecraft. But the reason why they don't that anymore is because those ice crystals are moving incredibly quickly and if they collide with other satellite, they can be very damaging and they can smash very expensive spacecraft.

Chris - That would be rather ironic to be taken out by a blob of human excrement if you're a very expensive satellite or whatever.

Dominic - Ironic, but in fact, still a threat today because some of these stuff is still there from 40 years ago and it's still just whizzing around in orbit around the earth.

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