How Does the Restroom in the International Space Station Work?
How does the restroom in the International Space Station work? Since there is no gravity there, I am assuming things are quite different.
Robert Frost:You are right, the absence of gravitational acceleration makes things a bit different.
Below is a picture of one of the toilets used for training purposes on the ground. The one onboard is almost identical.
The first thing an astronaut has to do is make sure he or she is seated properly. You can't just sit down in space, since there is no down. So, you'll notice there are straps to hold their feet so they won't float away, mid-use.
The next thing the astronaut has to do is make sure they are aligned correctly. There is actually a camera that looks up from the toilet so the crew member can make sure they are oriented properly.
Relieving oneself is not that different. It's a little different because on Earth gravity does play a role by pulling things down, but much of the movement of fluids and solids is initiated by muscles within the body.
Now here's where it gets really different: To replace the force of gravity to ensure waste goes down into the toilet, there is actually a vacuum hose that sucks the waste.
Urine is actually collected and then processed through a device that purifies the urine and converts it back into drinking water.
If the toilet is not working, one has to go into a baggy that has ampules that can be crushed to chemically react with the waste to prevent things like off-gassing and bacterial growth.
The bright side is that because of both changes in digestion and foods eaten, astronauts do not have to go to the bathroom as often as we do on Earth.
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