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May 22, 2009

Astronauts enjoy recycled urine

Posted: 09:02 AM ET

The crew of the International Space Station (ISS) tasted their own urine Wednesday - and NASA didn't even have to double-dog dare them.

Astronauts celebrated by "clinking" their drinking bags together in a traditional cheers before sipping water composed of recycled urine, sweat and atmospheric moisture. The cheers marked the initiation of a closed loop water recycling system aboard the ISS.

NASA claims each crew member creates about a gallon of water from urine every six hours, but the source water doesn't just come from the space station's human occupants. "Lab animals on the ISS breathe and urinate, too, and we plan to reclaim their waste products along with the crew's. A full complement of 72 rats would equal about one human in terms of water reclamation," Layne Carter, a water-processing specialist with NASA, said in a statement released by the space agency.

On NASA TV, Flight Engineer Mike Barrett confirmed "the taste is great," as another astronaut swam through the air catching floating bubbles of the recycled water. "This has been the stuff of science fiction," Barrett said on the program. "Everybody's talked about recycling water in a closed loop system, but nobody's ever done it before. Here we are today with the first round of recycled water."

Tom's Hardware is less enthusiastic about drinking the potent potable:

While it might sound completely gross to us, the water is probably cleaner than what we drink on earth. That being said, I’d rather take my chances with Earth water than drink the purified urine of a rat. Really.

Similar water purification technology was employed after the Asian tsunami in 2004, but with large scale use there is typically a much larger gap between urine and tap.

Would you be willing to drink reclaimed urine, or are you sticking to bottled water while Evian is available?

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Filed under: NASA • Space

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Arthur   May 22nd, 2009 1:39 pm ET

I for one am thankfull that i can drink the pee that Jesus peed 2000 years ago!!!!!

rick   May 22nd, 2009 1:40 pm ET

I was lucky to be in the control center where we were able to share the event with the ISS crew. We all had a glass of recycled water that was made during the ground testing. It really does taste like really boring water, very plain.

John Cordogan   May 22nd, 2009 1:42 pm ET

When does urine become water? Often while swimming laps in my neighborhood pool I wonder just that. In that case I suppose dilution is the solution. Notwithstanding we probably ingest more urine in the swimming pool than we may want to know and my guess is that it is still urine.

randy   May 22nd, 2009 1:45 pm ET

god, how do they get the urine form the animals...that must be a fun job...jeez

David   May 22nd, 2009 1:46 pm ET

It's no worse than what we do here on earth. Many people don't know their regular tap water is treated from sewage. So it's really the same thing as far as the starting point.

Jim   May 22nd, 2009 1:46 pm ET

Every ounce of water anyone has ever swam in, drank, used in surgery or cleaned their dishes with is 100% recycled urine. True, the ISS is not getting a fresh supply of water everyday, but neither is Earth.

Dave   May 22nd, 2009 1:47 pm ET

What's surprising is that up till now the ISS has not relied on recylcling for water supply!

Yolanda   May 22nd, 2009 1:48 pm ET

Sorry guys but you couldn't pay me enough money to drink "Recycled Urine"! In this day and age and with all the space advancement, you would think they would come up with a solution or better said a "Scientific' way to take regular water !! Yuk! Urine not for me!!

Meat loaf   May 22nd, 2009 1:49 pm ET

Can they make Meat loaf out of .....oh never mind.

andrew   May 22nd, 2009 1:52 pm ET

If someone offered you 2 bags of the same water one labeled Aquafina in pretty packaging and one labeled Recycled Urine.. you would of couse take the packaged one even though it the same thing, funny how the human brain can't get past certain labels.

People in third world countries are drinking water that is a LOT less clean and has a LOT more junk in it, so I think this is a step in the right direction to start more space exploration as well as having better water systems here on earth.

Tracy   May 22nd, 2009 1:53 pm ET

Iced pee anyone?.. haha

c   May 22nd, 2009 1:55 pm ET

Not news. Let me know when they start to recycle and eat Poo...

Sean from Virginia   May 22nd, 2009 1:56 pm ET

The recycled urine on Earth is called Miller Light.....

Ron   May 22nd, 2009 1:57 pm ET

This is nothing. I have watched people drink it out of cans for years. It's called Budweiser.

Roman Manlord   May 22nd, 2009 1:58 pm ET

I'm drinking my urine right now..I think it's mine. I wish I had a purifier.

kg   May 22nd, 2009 2:02 pm ET

don't poop where you eat, but do pee where you drink? Blech.

Su Prieta | Apire to Grace   May 22nd, 2009 2:07 pm ET

Yea, yea, yea.... we'll all be drinking recycled urine one day and could actually be drinking it now, I would probably be glad to have this someday... or even today... but, please, for the love of god... just don't tell me what I'm drinking!!

Fred   May 22nd, 2009 2:07 pm ET


James(Iowa)   May 22nd, 2009 2:07 pm ET

Honestly do you think there's water on this earth less disgusting than rat pee? 85% of the worlds rivers and lakes are polluted with everything from pharmacuitcals to industrial waste anyway. Just because it looks clear... lol

It's like the hot dog of liquids.

Su Prieta | Aspire to Grace   May 22nd, 2009 2:08 pm ET

Yea, yea, yea…. we’ll all be drinking recycled urine one day and could actually be drinking it now, I would probably be glad to have this someday… or even today… but, please, for the love of god… just don’t tell me what I’m drinking!!

Monty   May 22nd, 2009 2:08 pm ET

It really doesnt take much to purify water, any reverse osmosis filter with a uv sterilizer makes for drinkable water.

Science Teacher   May 22nd, 2009 2:09 pm ET

To those of you who are claiming this is "gross", "disgusting", etc.

You didn't pay attention in school did you?
What did you drink today? Coffee? Juice? Soda? Bottled water?
Well where the heck did the water in that drink come from?
It's been here since the beginning of time. It's been in an iceberg, the ocean, a dinosaur, a plant, the ground, the air, someone's bladder, are you getting the point?
It has nothing to do with being "Green" or an "Obama supporter" Geez!

James(Iowa)   May 22nd, 2009 2:10 pm ET

Oh and to Jane... you already probably drink recycled Urine. What do you think waste treatment plants do? LOL

Chris   May 22nd, 2009 2:10 pm ET

People are so squeamish! Think about what a thin slice of meat used to be before it became part of your sandwich. McDonalds would probably not be selling nearly as many "ground cow muscle with nerves and only a few bones" sandwiches if thats what we called them.

Now is this newsworthy? I suppose it generated a few comments!

Jason   May 22nd, 2009 2:11 pm ET

I find the people who are afraid to drink recycled water amusing... you all do realize that there isn't a magical spring where your water comes from... ultimately all of the water on earth has been cycled through some animal's peehole at some point in it's cycle.

dufus   May 22nd, 2009 2:13 pm ET

"So nobody has invented nothing new here." ???

MikeInOrlando   May 22nd, 2009 2:17 pm ET

This is nothing new at all. Where do you think they get that beer that taste like Skunk piss? Hinse the name.

mike   May 22nd, 2009 2:18 pm ET

adds new meaning to the saying "they got the right stuff"

Debi   May 22nd, 2009 2:19 pm ET

Congratulations on the scientific advancement, but pretty sure I couldn't get past the fact it is urine.

The New Yorker   May 22nd, 2009 2:19 pm ET

Okay, thats fine. Bring on the piss water, but like aquafina dont tell me where it came from. The thought disturbs me.

I think this along with the "better of ted" lab grown meat will allow us to go where no man has gone before. (yeah that was a play on words).

And finally when we end up crashing into satellites or go directly into a star (sun) after all being piss poisoned we will have realized this wasnt a good idea.

And for all of you environmental people I stop at the tree hugging. I have to be duped into the piss water. Hey just dont tell me where it came from. Ignorance is bliss.

Billb   May 22nd, 2009 2:25 pm ET

I believe this is already being bottled on earth under various names.

Names such as Miller Lite, Bud Light and Corona Light.

Lindsey Tzikakos   May 22nd, 2009 2:36 pm ET

Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I always wanted to be an Astronaut, until now. But hey, Survival of the Fittest!

Grover W. Denver CO   May 23rd, 2009 4:37 am ET

Do you remember the 'Stilth Suits' in Dune? they recycled all free water and waste from the body and had little pockets to drink filtered water from? Perhaps this is a step in that direction.

steve   May 23rd, 2009 8:48 am ET

If your ever a space tourist and they offer you some TANG just say no.

jeff   May 23rd, 2009 10:24 am ET

What do you think rain is made of?

MichaelB   May 23rd, 2009 2:53 pm ET

That pretty cool... but also nasty at the same time!

SilentBoy741   May 23rd, 2009 4:46 pm ET

"Astronauts enjoy recycled urine"

On Earth, we call it "light beer".

Kogi   May 23rd, 2009 7:05 pm ET

You all need to tough it up a little bit! As a young boy back in the old country (which shall remain undisclosed) I was very popular among women who have just given birth. They believed that drinking urine is helpful in some way so I was often asked to donate by the glassful. Here's to your health 😉

Vaughan Wynne-Jones   May 23rd, 2009 9:10 pm ET

We've been drinking recycled water since it first rained... no biggie.

Eugene Kelly   May 24th, 2009 12:33 pm ET

In truth, though....I'm willing to bet most sane people trapped under an avalanche for a week would start drinking their own UN-recycled urine.

Maurice Miles   May 24th, 2009 2:21 pm ET

I fully agree with Ellen 🙂

Rob   May 25th, 2009 1:07 am ET

Obviously, most people don't understand where water (including bottled water) that we drink here on Earth comes from: oceans, lakes, rivers, etc. All of that water contains urine, as well as other waste & bacteria from ALL sorts of animals.

Mekhong Kurt   May 25th, 2009 1:28 pm ET

Drink recycled, um, pee, whether my own, my fellow crew members (were I an astronaut aboard the ISS), or some lab rat's, well . . . I guess. I'm 58 years old and a huge fan of the space program, and have followed it closely for decades. So, I knew this was coming. That said, I probably could accept it more easily if I was a colonist on, say, the Moon or Mars and my team leader (or whoever) asked me, "Hey, what do you think about the water we've been getting from recycled pee the past six months?" I'd probably blanch, but at least I could think to myself, "Gee, I didn't even know," which would provide some comfort.

Otherwise, whether implicitly or explicityly, I'd have to double-dog dare myself. Or have someone else do it. 😉

But until we can figure out a way to manufacture water from space (fat chance, huh?), this is a necessity, and I'm glad to see that NASA has managed to reach what is a milestone, unglamorous as it is. Without it, we would be restricted to doing the space equivalent of taking a Sunday afternoon cruise around town. Let's say, on anything like a "lengthy" basis of several weeks, maybe out somewhere not far past the orbit of the Moon.

myhpio   May 26th, 2009 4:36 pm ET

....Yes,....I honestly did!

Moongirl_05   May 26th, 2009 10:23 pm ET

Well yes actually, they do ship the water from earth. The recycling system wasn't put into effect until just this past year. Up until then, there have been regular shipments of water with just about every mission to the ISS. It's mostly shipped on the Russian Progress vehicle, as it was designed as an unmanned cargo ship. And there will still be water shipments even though the recycling system seems to be up and running, though they should become less frequent. Just in case you were wondering, I work at NASA, in the payloads division. 🙂

Michael   May 28th, 2009 9:47 am ET

FYI, as an employee of the Johnson Space Center, I would like to clarify that before this installation, water was shipped to the ISS. There may have been smaller experiments with water purification but none to this degree. Since every ounce of weight is expensive to ship, this technology will help to lighten the load.

jason   May 29th, 2009 4:56 pm ET

haha...good point Ellen. A true realist 🙂

FastEddie   June 13th, 2009 5:20 pm ET

Have you seen this judging from your blog i thought you might like it

Jasmine Ward   July 13th, 2010 12:28 am ET

chlamydia can give you lots of painful and itchy moments so always practice safe sex.`-;

Jamie Stewart   October 7th, 2010 5:29 pm ET

chlamydia is very nasty disease, you'll get that nasty pus and infection,',

jeff smith   October 8th, 2010 9:11 am ET

My dehumidifier does this all the time. It only cost $150.

Should women be astronauts? Sure – just be sure to drink their pee | Web Watch by Web Gangsta   April 20th, 2011 7:02 pm ET

[...] So additional estrogen is considered a good thing for astronauts, in terms of preventing heart problems.  Which may be one benefit that those on the space station get from DRINKING RECYCLED URINE. [...]

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