It's one of the great stranded-on-an-island questions that inevitably comes up at a bar -- would you drink your own pee to survive? You might say no at first, but when presented with a series of qualifying factors -- there is no other water available or your shipwrecked mates have island fever and are holding a cutlass to your head -- you inevitably crack and agree that you would in fact recycle your own urine.
This might make for funny barroom jokes, but there are three guys who wouldn't be laughing. And they might still be in orbit. On May 20, three astronauts aboard the International Space Station were the first to test a system designed to recycle urine into potable drinking water for space missions. If you want to see the video evidence for yourself, the action begins at the 6:19 mark.
"We're happy to have this water work through the system -- we're happy to
have this water work through our system," joked American astronaut
Michael Barratt, who also described the taste as "great."
Barratt, a company man through and through. NASA's Environmental
Control Life Support System developed the $154 million wastewater
recycling equipment, which converts urine, sweat and exhaled air into
water (the last step is adding iodine to keep it sterile). All of that
moisture translates into a day's worth of water -- so the ISS can now
potentially support six permanent crew members instead of only three
drinking from a conventional water supply.
In thinking about the new NASA initiative, Good Magazine looks at urine recycling systems
in California and wonders if earth-bound people will ever accept the
idea, even if there's no discernible difference in quality or taste.
Regardless, Kansas City is sure to be a slow adopter -- at least as long
as it has the best tap water of any major city in the country.
[Image via Flickr: emagic]