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Bathrooms in space!
Posted on Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Perhaps humans sometimes take gravity for granted. Sure, it's unfortunate that we can't all enjoy the pleasures of flight without the use of an airplane, but it's nice that we don't all fall off the earth and get sucked into space. Having plenty of gravity also makes it a lot easier to go to the bathroom. This raises the question of how do toilets work in space?

Recently, National Geographic blogged about an exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum, titled "Moving Beyond Earth," which is set up to educate the common man about how astronauts relieve themselves in space. The display cost $30 million to put together, and includes a $5000 replica of a toilet used in one of NASA's five space shuttles - Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Discovery and Endeavor, according to the Smithsonian.

The source continues to explain that toilets have to be as "maintenance free" as possible during a space mission, as astronauts have more pressing matters to concentrate on. The toilets appear more-or-less similar to toilets commonly found in people's homes, except with a bigger base, smaller bowl and a tube for urination. Solid waste is compressed and ejected from the ship through the roof, while liquid waste gets sucked into the tube. Somewhat contrary to what a person may expect, women seem to generally have an easy time learning how to use the tube. 

The public's fascination with space toilets

Michael Hulsander, a staffer at the museum, explained that the reconcilability of toilets makes this exhibit especially popular among museum attendees. 

"It is truly universal," he told the source. "The first thing he thought when planning the exhibition was "oh my god, we need a toilet."

Tom Jones, an astronaut, also spoke to the Smithsonian about his experience with space toilets. He explained that it's impossible to "hold it" for more than two weeks, therefore the system needs to be as efficient and foolproof as possible. 

"You've got to be able to use the system. And you want to be efficient at it, because it takes time away from what you really should be doing," he told the information provider. He also shared an anecdote about a crew mate who mastered the art of zero gravity peeing, and preferred to urinate upside down. 



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