support engineer Cindy Hutchens works in a laboratory at Marshall
Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.|
Space Flight Center,
oversees water recycling experiment
-- Cindy Hutchens thinks a lot about something most people take
for granted -- water.
engineer for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville,
Ala., Hutchens is responsible for a Space Shuttle experiment to
make life aboard the International Space Station more efficient
and water a little less hard to come by.
up in Holly Pond (Ala.) in a region where water is plentiful, I
don’t think I ever gave much thought to the importance of water
to my life,” Hutchens said. “Working in the space program
as I do, my perspective now is that water is as valuable as gold.”
Water is so
costly to launch into space aboard the Shuttle or Russian supply
ships that each Space Station crewmember is allowed only 4.4 gallons
per day. The average American uses 60 gallons per day on Earth.
That’s why NASA is working to collect and recycle as much water
the Vapor Compression Distillation (VCD) Flight Experiment, which
is being tested during the STS-107 mission this month. It is a full-scale
demonstration of technology to turn crewmember urine and wastewater
aboard the Space Station into clean water for drinking, cooking
and hygiene. Based on results of the experiment, an operational
urine processor could be installed aboard the Space Station in the
this technology is installed aboard the Space Station, it will be
able to recycle about 4,400 pounds of waste water annually to support
the crew and decrease the re-supply burden on the Shuttle,”
Hutchens said. “The early pioneers in this country could find
water along their way, but that’s a luxury space explorers
don’t have. It’s a technology we will need to explore
the space frontier.”
from Holly Pond High School and then earned a bachelor’s degree
in mechanical engineering in 1986 from Arizona State University
in Phoenix. She joined NASA in May 1987, and has devoted much of
her space-program career to water recycling for space applications,
authoring or co-authoring 16 technical papers on the subject.
program is a very stimulating environment,” Hutchens said.
“I’ve been lucky to be part of designing, developing and
building flight hardware to be flown aboard the International Space
In her spare
time, Hutchens enjoys sewing, reading and scrapbooking.
and photos for this story were provided by Marshall Space Flight