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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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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.

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.

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!

Meat loaf   May 22nd, 2009 1:49 pm ET

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

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

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

kg   May 22nd, 2009 2:02 pm ET

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

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!

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.

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.

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?

SilentBoy741   May 23rd, 2009 4:46 pm ET

"Astronauts enjoy recycled urine"

On Earth, we call it "light beer".

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.

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

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