The Space Toilet

YouTube / Chris Hadfield
YouTube / Chris Hadfield / YouTube / Chris Hadfield

Living in space is something I dream about. But when you get down to the details, that dream gets a little messy. Today, let's examine just how astronauts use the bathroom in the icy depths of space.

First up, Commander Chris Hadfield (on Earth) explains the basic process:

Aaaaaaand here's what happened when the toilet broke on the ISS. (Also, "it's garbage week!")

Want more? Here's seven minutes of Space Toilet training on the ground. It includes an "alignment camera" and a written manual. (There's a shorter version showing the basic functions.)

EVEN MORE? In this video, starting around 4:45, Commander Sunita Williams introduces us to the ISS Outhouse (after showing some other typical daily tasks like brushing teeth, sleeping quarters, and so on). "You have to have pretty good aim," she says.

If you liked all that toilet business, you must check out Mary Roach's book Packing for Mars; last year I linked to an excellent lecture in which she discussed the book. A sample quote:

"The Space Toilet. You may not really appreciate gravity in your lives the way that you should. ... [In space] you're sitting on a shop vac, essentially." Later: "Okay. I give people the impression that this entire book is about crapping in space, and it's not, really, honest to God, it's not. But there's just one more thing [about crapping in space] I have to tell you."

And if you're feeling gross after all this, let Hadfield show you how to wash your hands in space: