Life in space has got to be out of this world. For celestial bound mortals, the setting is obviously a far cry from anything we know. On the other hand, life is still life, and the basics cannot be escaped. Eating, drinking, sleeping, and getting along are definitely not lost to the vast reaches. But the most common question that crews receive about daily life really gets down to the nitty-gritty: “How do astronauts go to the bathroom in space?”
Well, we actually have a video that explains just that! Check out this explanation video from astronaut Chris Cassidy:
Biologically, the process is just the same. However, the question actually does come up. Earthlings wonder whether zero gravity has waste floating around the bladder and maybe the prerequisites for going to the bathroom in space is different.
As for the mechanics, we’d like to think it’s along the lines of Frank Poole’s 2001 space jog around the Odyssey. The centrifugal force of the run creates enough gravity and keeps the astronaut grounded. You enter a compartment, a slow spin ensues, and any loose material heads in the right direction for a bathroom in space.
That’s not quite accurate according to the International Space Station video demonstration by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy. But there is a compartment, and a brand new bathroom in space has just been delivered. A bit beyond Amazon’s reach, the Universal Waste Management system has astronauts well covered on both ends.
The same goes for privacy for this bathroom in space. But before starting anything, astronauts must check the control panel and make sure the Urine Processor Assembly is engaged. “We say, check that it’s ‘V’ to ‘P,’” instructed Cassidy.
The cosmic travelers then set their sights on a funnel-shaped device. A turn of the nob and the bathroom in space is activated. The astronauts now have two options to complete number one.
They can either use a metal bucket or step right up to the cylindrical plastic, which is hooked to a storage tank. Either way, make sure the connection is sucking air, and the whirlwind does the rest for the bathroom in space. “That’s where your business goes,” deadpanned Cassidy.
However, there’s no science-fiction type laser system to neutralize the bacteria. So the bathroom in space means astronauts must go manual like the rest of us in. They apply a wipe and clean the top of the tube.
Number two will also look very familiar. A metallic shaped bucket is secured to the floor and a plastic lid opens to a five-inch wide hole. The enclosure is outlined in plastic, in goes your deposit, and the bathroom in space is really nothing fancy.
Any toilet paper used also enters, and when finished, the user removes the plastic seal. Zipping it closed, astronauts use a stick to push down the waste over the rest of the refuse.
The old line about a stack of excrement piled high probably never gets old at 250 miles above the earth. But 30 deposits for the bathroom in space system are the limit for each container.
We also haven’t gotten to the point where waste is converted into food either. Maybe fuel! The solid and liquid material finds itself in cargo storage and eventually makes for the atmosphere. Don’t worry, not only can no one hear screams in space, smell falls under the same physics.