January 14, 2010
Urine Clogs Space Station Water Recycling System
The International Space Station's $250 million water recycling system is facing a problem as the astronauts' urine is clogging the system that turns it into drinkable clean water, according to NASA scientists.
The engineers trouble-shooting the problem think the clog is a result of high concentrations of calcium in the astronaut's urine, reported Reuters.Scientists are now trying to determine if the high concentration of calcium is because of bone-loss from living without gravity, or some other factor.
"We've learned a lot more about urine than we ever needed or wanted to know, some of us anyway," said station flight director David Korth.
The $100 billion space station project backed by 16 nations has been a work in progress for over ten years.
The urine recycling system was implemented in November 2008 after being fully tested by NASA.
"Folks had good knowledge of the content of the urine going in, but the chemistry changes as it works through the processor are not always understood," said program scientist Julie Robinson.
"There are a lot of parameters including urine calcium and pH (acidity) that everyone is looking at."
The hope is that engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will be able to find a solution before replacement parts are shipped out on the shuttle Endeavor, set to launch February 7 for a construction mission.
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