To celebrate World Toilet Day on Sunday, current space station resident Andreas Mogensen has answered one of the most common questions astronauts are asked: “How do you use the bathroom in space?”
Microgravity conditions on the International Space Station (ISS) make it impossible to use a conventional toilet on the orbital outpost. You wouldn’t even want to imagine the mess this would cause.
So engineers had to create something that would move human waste away rapidly, before it had a chance to float around and pollute the environment.
“If you’ve ever wondered how going to the toilet on the ISS works, I’ve made a short video explaining the process required to go to toilets number 1 and 2 on the ISS,” Mogensen said in a social media post. ” sunday.
The video (above) shows how suction cups are used to extract urine, which, incidentally, is treated before being recycled as drinking water for the ISS crew. For solid waste, the astronaut sits on a small device that contains charcoal to prevent the pungent odor from escaping.
The waste is captured in a bag which the astronaut seals. It cannot be reused for anything, so it is vacuum-dried and compressed in airtight containers before being ejected from the station with other waste, which then burns up in Earth’s atmosphere.
The ISS has three toilets for the crew which usually consists of about six astronauts.
The European Space Agency also released some infographics on the same topic:
World Toilet Day is a United Nations-supported event that aims to inspire action to improve conditions among the more than four billion people who still live without safely managed sanitation.
“Having a functioning toilet in space reminds me that not everyone in the world is lucky enough to have such luxuries or even access to clean water,” Mogensen said in his post.
For more information about how astronauts live and work on the ISS, check out these videos made by crew members who have been there over the past few years.