Well, astronauts drink it after it was filtered by the urine-processing system in the American side of the space laboratory. But not all crew members drink it, people familiar with the matter said. The Russians don’t.
Why? Well, that’s long story. It all began in the 1980s, when NASA opened a separate side for its astronauts on the International Space Station. But the U.S. space agency came up with a new idea of water filtering – the iodine based system, which collected waste water from the craft such as shower runoff, breath, and sweat from astronauts collected from air (also known as condensate), and used iodine to filter them into clean water.
In 1998, NASA came up with the idea to recycle urine from astronauts and animals on board of the station, as well. The ISS is currently home to a dozen laboratory mice used in scientific experiments.
But the idea was not on the Russians’ taste. They had a better waste-processing system based on silver ions. And they have been using the system since the 1960s during the first MIR missions. Plus the system only collects and filters condensate and shower runoff and turns them into drinking water. For this reason, the Russians and Americans have two separate water filtration systems.
Nevertheless, the ISS also has 2,000 extra litres of water that no one touches unless there is an emergency such as a resupply mission failure. And in the last 12 months there has been plenty of failures. In June, a Falcon 9 rocket exploded for no apparent reason three minutes after the launch. The cargo was compromised. In October, another U.S. first stage rocket exploded, while three months ago a Russian cargo ship went astray in the orbit and fell back to Earth, destroying nearly 3 tons of scientific material and food supply in the process.
On Aug. 19, a Japanese resupply mission was finally able to dock a cargo craft to the station. Layne Carter, the manager which supervises the U.S. water system, said that her life got a lot better after the cargo reached its destination.
All cargos carried water-processing tools necessary to ISS astronauts. Those tools included filters for the iodine based system and a set of filtration beds for the water filtration system.
Carter said that the water that comes out after the astronauts’ urine, sweat, and breath are recycled tastes ” like bottled water.” Her team stopped to use condensate in the filter since mid-July, and looked for more effective ways of finding new water reserves. And doing that requires every single droplet to be recycled since a single pint of fresh water costs $10,000 to be ferried from Earth to the ISS.
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