How do you poop in space?

In space everything is different, the most basic human biological processes become difficult off-planet, partly due to the lack of gravity.

Small or big commission, find out how our dear astronauts are doing to meet natural needs on board the International Space Station.

poop in space

23 million dollars (about 20 million euros),
this is the price of the toilets installed on the ISS during 2020.

toilets of the international space station in 2020

As you can imagine, going to the bathroom in the International Space Station is not as simple as it is down here on earth.
On platforms like the ISS where astronauts live and work for long periods of time, toilets known as the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS) recycle urine to produce water for later use.
For missions of shorter duration, such as Artemis II, the waste is simply stored for later disposal.
These new toilets were designed in response to astronaut feedback on comfort and ease of use.
They also feature a 65% smaller and 40% lighter construction than previous space station toilets.
For example: the toilets now have a seat, which will delight the female crew.

According to NASA Advanced Exploration Systems Logistics Reduction Project Leader Melissa McKinley, the key to this equipment is "optimizing mass volume and power consumption, both of which are very important characteristics in the design of a spacecraft”.

In practice ...

video of samantha cristoferreti on the toilet of the iss

In the absence of gravity, the residents of the International Space Station use a suitable device that allows them to suck up waste, whether liquid or solid. There are two ways to do this.

In the video above, presented by astronaut Samantha Cristoferreti aboard the ISS, you can see two main systems.
The funnel-shaped pipe for the small commission, which collects urine in order to recycle it into drinking water thanks to the “Urine Processor Assembly. water being a rare commodity in space.
For the big commission, the astronauts have a “seat” available. In reality, it is not a very easy system to use due to the lack of weightlessness.
It's a procedure that takes some practice, which is why it's part of astronaut training before going on a mission in space.
Once positioned as best they can, the astronauts activate the mechanism, a suction system that allows heavy waste to be evacuated.
Subsequently, they are stored in a compartment of the ISS provided for this purpose, before being sent into the atmosphere to be disintegrated.

So the next time you see a shooting star… It might not be what you think.

Even at 20 million dollars, the toilets of the ISS can break down, it is one of the first interventions of Thomas Pesquet on his arrival in the ISS with his colleague Peggy Whitson.

contest to solve the problem of poo in space

SPACE POOP CHALLENGE, a contest to solve the problem
"poo in space"

At the end of 2016, NASA launched a competition to design a system for spacesuits, aimed at managing the organic waste produced by astronauts during the use of their suits.

The problem was brought to light during the flight of Frenchman Thomas Pesquet to the International Space Station (ISS). With his colleagues, before arriving safely on November 20, they stayed 48 hours in their capsule without a toilet.

$30,000 is the sum put into play by NASA.

The instructions were simple, we needed a system that works inside a space suit, which collects urine, faeces and menstrual loss over a period of 144 hours, or 6 full days.
It was also necessary that the system be autonomous so that the astronauts keep their hands free during the maneuver.

After sifting through nearly 5,000 proposals, NASA has found its winner. His name is Thatcher Cardon and he is a medic for the United States Air Force.

His invention consists of a small opening in the form of an airlock that would allow astronauts to extract diapers and replace them, but also to change underwear discreetly.

Two other ideas have been retained by NASA, the first comes from a trio of researchers who proposed a waste disposal system using air pressure.
The second, by an English designer, proposed a disinfectant underwear, and storing waste.

It now remains for NASA to develop several prototypes to send them to the international space station for testing.

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