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article imageLeak in space: ISS toilet floods astronauts

By Tim Sandle     Feb 8, 2019 in Science
A leaking toilet can be a pain, especially when water gushes out. Imagine what it is like on-board a space station. This is what astronauts had to content with recently on the International Space Station.
As reported in a NASA status dossier, the $19 million toilet used by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) leaked, spilling out some 9.5 liters of water. The crew had no recourse other than to use disposable towels to clean up the liquid and undertake an emergency repair to fix the leak.
The lavatory is officially known as Universal Waste Management System and it is a double stall enclosure, designed to provide privacy for the Toilet System and the Hygiene Compartment. Moreover, effective collection is critical to maintain crew health and hygiene for long-duration habitats.
The expensive build is necessary, give that the collection of human metabolic waste is challenging in a micro-gravity environment. The system is due to be upgraded in 2020. The toilet system was built by Russian company RSC Energia and it was installed in 2008, where it has operated without incident until now.
The pre-2008 toilet system collected urine in containers and the containers were sent into the Earth's atmosphere to burn up. The current toilet system is more eco-friendly, albeit in a more unpalatable way. The system collects and reconstitutes the urine as drinking water, serving a 'clean' water source for thirsty astronauts.
Despite the heavy price tag, the toilet is not easy to use according to Engadget. Interviewing astronaut Peggy Whitson, the techology site notes that Whitson has described using the toilet like going on a "camping trip." The operation involvesan astronaut sitting on a small plate-sized hole on top of a silver can or peeing into a yellow cone.
More about International Space Station, toliet, Astronauts, Space
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