In an environmentally conscious world, there seems to be almost no end to what can be recycled on Earth. That seems to also be the case in space, aboard the International Space Station (ISS), where one man's urine is another man's drink.
NASA astronauts use a water recycling system that processes their urine and condensate, which is the breath and sweat of the crew accumulated from the air and shower runoff. Around 93 percent of all the water onboard comes from the filter, according to the Guardian.
“It tastes like bottled water,” Layne Carter, water subsystem manager for the ISS at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center told Bloomberg. “As long as you can psychologically get past the point that it’s recycled urine and condensate that comes out of the air.”
Russian crews, who also inhabit the station, also collect condensate to filter, but they have separate water systems, and only the American astronauts drink recycled urine. However, NASA astronauts use both crews' urine to produce the drinking water.
“It really makes a lot of sense to have dissimilar redundancies in the space station in case one of the systems has problems,” Carter told Bloomberg.
In the event of an emergency, the station also has 2,000 liters of water on board to share between the two crews.
Former astronaut Chris Hadfield defended the unconventional drinking water source aboard the International Space Station in a 2013 video.
“Before you cringe at the thought of drinking your leftover wash water and your leftover urine, keep in mind that the water that we end up with is purer than most of the water that you drink at home,” he said. “That makes the International Space Station its own self-contained environment. That’s a critical step towards living for long periods off of planet Earth.”