Humans cannot do without visiting the bathroom. Hence, whether astronauts are on Earth or in Space, they still require to poop and pee whenever the need arises. But unlike visiting the toilet on Earth, the crew are mandated to abide by certain rules to safely use the toilet in space. So how do astronauts poop and pee in space? Continue reading to find out.
How do astronauts poop and pee in space?
Unlike Earth, where humans poop and pee in the same place, astronauts aboard the space station use different facilities to pee and poop. On the International Space Station, the pee facility is designed to transfer the astronauts’ urine into a recycling device, while the poop goes directly inside the waste bag.
Step By Step Procedures Astronauts Follow to Pee in Space
When astronauts go into the bathroom cabin, the first step they take is to grab the pee host and turn the rotor switch to 90 degrees which is its open position. The switching automatically turns on the fan which generates a suction effect in the host. Once the host is active, the astronaut can use the yellow cap of the host to urinate.
When the crew is done with his/her business, the person will close the cap of the host and return it to its safe position. There is hydraulic equipment installed behind the bathroom cabin of the International Space Station that makes the use of toilets in space possible.
The urine passes through the post and gets transferred to another piece of equipment named the Urine Processing Assembly (UPA) installed on the floor of the ISS. The UPA equipment is the first step to transforming urine into potable drinkable water.
Step By Step Procedures Astronauts Follow to Poop in Space
How do astronauts poop in space? To poop in the microgravity environment of space, astronauts aboard the space station follow nearly the same principle as they do with the host. The ISS has a solid waste container with a seat attached to its top.
The solid waste container is connected to the same fan that creates a suction effect on the urine host. The suction effect created in the solid waste container enables astronauts to poop in weightlessness. Once the astronaut turns on the switch in the pee host, the person will proceed to lift the lid of the seat atop the solid waste container.
The waste seat appears quite comfortable. But since astronauts cannot sit in weightlessness, they prefer to lift the second toilet seat as well and use directly. The opening that goes into the bag. Once the astronaut is done, the crew closes the bag and pushes it into the solid waste container.
A new fresh bag will be inserted inside the container for the next person. The solid waste container gets changed when it is cold which is usually about every 10 days.
What You Should Know About the History of Space Toilets
While NASA was designing its first crewed space vehicles in the 1960s, the agency did not pay much attention to how astronauts would pee and poop in the weightlessness. NASA revealed that astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American to reach space had to pee on his pants during the 1961 launch.
NASA engineers didn’t consider including a pee plan as the mission was scheduled to last for only 15 minutes. However, the launch crew ignores to consider the duration Shepard has to sit in the launchpad waiting for liftoff. As Shepard sat for an extended period on the launchpad, his bladder began to full.
The crew instructed him to do the business right there without leaving his sitting position. This incident inspired NASA to find solutions to combat such a problem. The agency was working on a more challenging bathroom design plan in the 60s. NASA designed the first pee-catchers named roll-on cuffs that appeared like urine condoms.
They were made in three sizes and designed to be used by men alone. The latex cuff was attached to a plastic tube, valve, clamp, and collection bag. NASA astronaut John Glenn used these cuffs on the Mercury-Atlas 6 mission that lasted for about 4 hours and 55 minutes. NASA revealed that the Gemini missions of the 1960s were the first time they have to deal with astronauts’ poop in space. The first devices used were just bags attached to the crew’s butts.
“After defecation, the crewmember was required to seal the bag and knead it in order to mix a liquid bactericide with the contents to provide the desired degree of feces stabilization,” NASA said. “Because this task was distasteful and required an inordinate amount of time, low residue foods and laxatives were generally used prior to launch.”
How Do Astronauts Poop and Pee In Space During Apollo Program?
During NASA’s famous Apollo program that landed the first human on the lunar surface, the agency still used the bags to collect astronauts poop and pee. After NASA ended its Apollo missions in 1975, its engineers noted that astronaut’s poop and pee is the “bothersome aspects of space travel.”
The agency worked on sending several solutions including strappy toilet seats, pee bags, $19 million commodes, and a lot more. These experiences were conducted to find the best suitable solutions to provide astronauts with better bathroom facilities in space. NASA logged all the poos collected during the Apollo missions for scientific experiments.
However, not every poo specimen was collected as previously planned. For example, during the Apollo 10 mission in 1969, NASA astronaut Tom Stafford said: “Get me a napkin quick. There’s a turd floating through the air.” To ensure that no the astronaut’s waste was collected without contaminating the spacecraft, NASA built a fecal containment system for its Apollo astronauts.
This system was built as it was not possible to use bags outside the spacecraft. The system was designed as “a pair of undershorts with layers of absorbent material.” NASA revealed that “the undershorts would serve to contain any excreta.”
How NASA Arrived on the Era of Toilet in Space
The baggie system used during the Apollo and Gemini missions was specifically designed for men. The first time NASA added a toilet to its space station was during the era of Skylab in 1973. The toilet consists of a hole in the wall which a fan and a bag were attached to it. When the space shuttle era arrived in the 1980s, NASA added space toilets to the system in space.
The Space Shuttle came with a $50,000 toilet named the Waste Collection System. The space agency also developed the Disposable Absorption Containment Trunk like bike shorts to allow women astronauts to pee during launch and while conducting spacewalks.
Generally, astronauts are mandated to train on how to use the toilet in space first before flying into space. Astronauts in space were not allowed to add paper in the toilet. They have to discard the paper separately.
After the International Space Station was launched in 1998, space agencies that collaborated for the launch added a more comfortable space toilet for the crew. Currently, astronauts aboard the International Space Station often visit the bathroom and use a little plate-size toilet hole to do their business.
A fan vacuum often sucks away their excrement into a waste bag carefully positioned inside the space toilet. The astronauts’ poop is stored in plastic bags. The stored poop often sent on a cargo ship that burns it up as to moves toward Earth.
The space toilets aboard the ISS are efficient in recycling about 80 to 85% of the urine into drinking water. In fact, NASA recently announced that it was able to recycle 98% of astronaut pee and sweat in space.
How do astronauts poop and pee during spacewalks?
Astronauts often spend hours during spacewalks. Hence, NASA developed Maximum Absorbency Garments to collect their excrement during spacewalks. Both male and female astronauts can comfortably pass out their waste in these systems installed on EVA spacesuits.
How do astronauts poop and pee in space? Space agencies running the International Space Station have provided its astronauts with necessary bathroom facilities to poop and pee while floating in the weightless environment of space. You check out these trending space gifts for your loved ones