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  • We have a habit of deifying astronauts, but the truth is they're humans just like us.

  • They put on their space suits one leg at a time, they have to eat, sleep, and just like

  • us, poop. The only difference is if their toilet doesn't work, they can't pop into

  • the local coffee shop to relieve themselves. Oh, and their poop will float around their

  • heads in an extremely confined environment. All this means it's crucial that the toilets

  • we send beyond the surly bonds of Earth's gravity have the right stuff, and that's

  • why NASA is about to test out a new toilet that cost $23 million.

  • $23 million sounds like a lot for a toilet unless you are of course an insane billionaire

  • who wipes with priceless renaissance paintings. It's certainly a lot more than we spent

  • on waste management in the early days of space flight. Apollo astronauts didn't have the luxury

  • of anything so fancy. They just had to go into bags they taped to their all-American derrieres.

  • It wasn't until 1973 with the launch of

  • Skylab that a NASA spacecraft had a proper toilet. Actuallytoiletmight be a bit

  • strong of a word. Really, it was a hole in the wall with some suction, and on the other

  • side of the hole? More bags to collect samples for analysis.

  • So you see it's pretty small, so you have to have pretty good aim.

  • The toilets installed in the ISS today are

  • more like regular toilets here on Earth, with the addition of a funnel to suck up any liquid

  • waste. Solid waste is still deposited in plastic bags that are bundled up with other trash

  • and shot back toward Earth to burn up in our atmosphere. But if the bags are filling up

  • before trash day, astronauts have to put on a rubber glove and pack it down themselves.

  • Moving on before I can think about that too much, the goal of this pricey privvy is actually

  • to save money. See, right now space toilets are custom made for each mission, but NASA's

  • goal with this new toilet is to make a universal waste management system; one that could be

  • installed in a variety of spacecraft. These future crewed exploration vehicles will have

  • much less space inside than the ISS, so a more compact design was needed. It was also

  • important to make something self-contained and easy to maintain, unlike the current ISS

  • toilets which are hard to access because they're behind a bulkhead.

  • The new toilet also helps preserve one of the most precious resources in space: water.

  • The fancy new space toilet has a urine pretreatment dose pump and pretreatment quality indicator

  • which allow for water to be recovered from urine. Yes, astronauts drink recycled urine.

  • Still think you have what it takes? Along with the practical considerations, NASA

  • also made some quality of life improvements, particularly for female astronauts. The seat

  • and urine funnel have been redesigned with them in mind. Still some things never change:

  • there's no special trick to vaporize poop into rocket fuel or anything like that just

  • yet. No, the solution for that is once again good old plastic bags, which will be sealed

  • up, stored in an airtight container, and you guessed it, sent back to someone on Earth.

  • So, you may be wondering where exactly $23 million went, and frankly I'm not totally

  • sure myself. But apparently it's par for the course. In 1993 the Space Shuttle's

  • new toilet cost an estimated $30 million dollars. So this new head is coming out ahead.

  • The first universal waste management system will be shipped to the ISS in September of

  • 2020. Once installed, it will serve the dual purposes of increasing the size of the crew

  • the ISS can accommodate and testing the new toilet tech, presumably when the ISS has enchilada

  • night. After 3 years of collecting data and evaluating

  • feedback, the second new space loo will be installed on the Orion spacecraft, the craft

  • that will take humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars. When that day comes, astronauts

  • will boldly go where no human has gone before and go where no human has gone before.

  • Current space toilets only work in microgravity, so NASA has issued a challenge for designs

  • that will work in lunar gravity as well. The prize is $35,000.

  • Enter to win and you could be flush with cash.

  • If you like this video, check out this other one I did on the history

  • of space toilets, don't forget to subscribe and leave a comment, and I'll see you next

  • time on Seeker.

We have a habit of deifying astronauts, but the truth is they're humans just like us.

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In Space, Every Poop Is a Floater: Why the New ISS Toilet Costs $23 Million

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    Summer posted on 2020/09/09
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