Water on the Space Station
Rationing and recycling will be an essential part of life on the International
Space Station. In this article, Science@NASA explores where the
crew will get their water and how they will (re)use it.
2, 2000 -- Future astronauts poised to blast off for an extended
stay on the International Space Station (ISS) might first consider
dashing to the restroom for a quick splash at the lavatory, or better
yet, a luxurious hot shower. Once on board the ISS, spacefarers
are in for a steady diet of sponge baths using water distilled from
-- among other places -- their crewmates breath.
If you're squeamish, read no farther, because the crew will eventually include lab rodents
-- and they'll be breathing, too. All of the denizens of the space
station lose water when they exhale or sweat. Such vapors add to
the ambient cabin humidity, which is eventually condensed and returned
to the general water supply.
Sometimes it's better not to think about where your next glass of water
is coming from!
Rationing and recycling will be an essential part of daily life on the ISS. In
orbit, where Earth's natural life support system is missing, the
Space Station itself has to provide abundant power, clean water,
and breathable air at the right temperature and humidity -- 24 hours
a day, 7 days a week, indefinitely. Nothing can go to waste.
In this article, the first of a series about the practical challenges of living in
space, Science@NASA will examine how the Space Station's
Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS), under continuing development at the Marshall
Space Flight Center, will help astronauts use and re-use
their precious supplies of water. Future installments will explore
air management, thermal control and fire suppression -- in short,
all of the things that will make the Space Station comfortable and