How is breathing air created in the ISS

ISS : Where there is water in space

The corresponding machine was delivered a week ago with the "Endeavor" shuttle. But she keeps turning itself off. In the third test, just under four liters of urine were processed, reported ISS commander Mike Fincke to Earth yesterday, and then it was over again. In the worst case, the shuttle crew must repack the artificial source so that it can be repaired on earth and brought back to the top with the next space shuttle, said NASA.

The engineers still have some time. The water dispenser will only be necessary from May onwards, when the station crew will grow from three to six astronauts. "Water is the limiting factor on the ISS," says Volker Sobick, Deputy Head of the Manned Space Department at the German Aerospace Center. "That is why it is used almost exclusively for drinking and eating; it is too precious for personal hygiene as we know it on earth." There is no shower on the ISS and not even running water. Special wet wipes are used for cleaning. According to the astronauts, this works well; There are no unpleasant smells. The drinking water supply also takes getting used to: The water comes from the tanks of the Russian "Progress" freighters, which regularly dock, and from the shuttles, where it is produced as a waste product in the fuel cells. "Of course the water is cleaned," says Sobick. In principle, the new toilet system does nothing else: it cleans.

Space travelers spend more time janitorial than research

But before the machine can produce water, an astronaut has to sit down first. Due to the weightlessness, seat belts must be worn in the cosmic toilet. To be on the safe side, the $ 20 million place has a built-in suction device. It helps to put all recyclables in one container. The sucked in air is separated from the other components and blown back into the station after a filter passage. Meanwhile, the urine is subjected to a high-tech treatment. The water is separated and cleaned several times. In this way, service water has already been generated for the station, and the new system is intended to supply drinking water. Even the oxygen present in urea is extracted to improve the air we breathe. The solid components that are no longer useful are pressed and disposed of with the station waste.

The ISS's new waterworks doesn't just use urine. It should also use the humidity, which increases mainly through breathing and sweating. "This also improves the air quality in the station," says Sobick. The cosmonauts in the Russian space station "Mir", for example, had to fight mold in the end.

Such problems are not known from the ISS. Nevertheless, the space travelers spend significantly more time with caretaker activities than with research in weightlessness. On average, 2.5 people are needed to keep the station running, says Sobick. They check the supply systems, change filters or install new software on the computer. "When six astronauts are up there, there will finally be more time to research," says Sobick. A good reason to toast.

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