When nature calls in space

I know you’ve wondered how astronauts relieve themselves in zero gravity.  National Geographic’s “Known Universe” has the answers in this video.  No worries: it’s actually a marvel of engineering, and you won’t see anything gross.

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  1. Posted May 4, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Jerry. You seriously need more to do.

    • Posted May 4, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      If I’m not mistraken, the semester either just ended for him or is about to end. We’re lucky all we’re getting from him is videos about poop in space — just have a look at the incoherent babbling from the Squidly One!



      • Josh
        Posted May 4, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

        no, it’s still the middle of the quarter here @ U of C

        • Posted May 4, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink

          Even worse — just think of the shape he’ll be in when it does end!


    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted May 4, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Maybe I should chant a million times?

    • Dominic
      Posted May 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      When you spend a long time staring at flies down a microscope, sometimes you need a loo break.

  2. daveau
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    All those checklists and simulations. It’s easier to fly an airplane.

  3. Michael Fisher
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    Very amusing usage of language. H.W.Fowler will be spinning & fascinated ~ both at once.

    Cupboard label @ 01:47:


    NASA loves labels & euphemisms

    “Gender Funnels” FFS 🙂

    • Dominic
      Posted May 4, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      Scraper tools… In space no one can hear you scream!

      I can vaguely recall the Moon missions involved some sort of nappies?

      • Posted May 4, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        They did?

        • Dominic
          Posted May 5, 2011 at 1:10 am | Permalink

          …still have them! Sorry – diapers…
          “Maximum Absorbency Garments” –
          I love the line ‘In Neil Armstrong’s day, astronauts wore urine and fecal containment systems under spandex trunks.’

          • Posted May 5, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink

            HA!! Now I wish one of my kids was still in nappies/diapers so I could send my husband to the store with “urine and fecal containment system” on the shopping list…

  4. Posted May 4, 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    This is awesome! I want one of these for my house!

    • Dominic
      Posted May 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      I think not Colin – if the cost is remotely like that of the International Space Station!

      • Posted May 4, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        Wow– and $19 million was cheaper than building their own… and here I thought $500 heated toilet seats with bells and whistles in Japan were expensive…

        • Darrell E
          Posted May 5, 2011 at 5:25 am | Permalink

          Love those. My first experience with one was in an upscale hotel in Osaka. There was an instruction manual, mostly pictograms, on a counter beside the toilet.

          I just don’t understand how those things seem to be able to hit the right spot everytime.

          • Posted May 5, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

            They are pretty fun toilets… though it’s a good idea to keep young children away from them. My middle son wandered into the WC in the early morning at grandma’s house, pushed a button, a sent a huge spray of water arcing out of the toilet. He was just short enough that the jet of loo water hit him right in the face. I pulled him back out of the spray… and the water went shooting into the hallway. It took me at least a minute to figure out which button to push to turn the bum-washer off, by which time the floor was well nigh unto lake-hood.

            • darrelle
              Posted May 5, 2011 at 10:29 am | Permalink

              I never thought of that! My kids would have a field day.

              How about cats? Have your cats ever messed with the controls?

              • Posted May 6, 2011 at 4:50 am | Permalink

                Company housing… no can haz kitteh:-(( But my mother-in-law’s kitties have never touched the controls (as far as I know…)

  5. Posted May 4, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Anyone who’s interested in this sort of stuff should read Mary Roach’s new book Packing For Mars. It’s excellent, and full of all sorts of weird little bits about what it takes to put people in space and the research that went into figuring that out.

    • bhoytony
      Posted May 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      I love the transcript in the book of the space station communication with mission control when somebody says “OK, who’s is that?” as a an escaped turd floats across the cabin. As I recall nobody claims it.

      • Posted May 4, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        HA! I’ll be looking for that book 🙂

      • Dominic
        Posted May 5, 2011 at 1:11 am | Permalink


  6. Posted May 4, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    Well I, for one, feel calm and complete now– I’ve wanted to know the answer to that question for literally decades. I can remember sitting at the dinner table in junior high and asking my mom and dad “how do astronauts go to the bathroom in space?” (don’t ask how that topic came up at the dinner table… suffice to say that our dinner-table conversations were fast and furious;-))

  7. still learning
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Hmmm…what about the 3rd use of toilets? Vomiting could be really messy!

    • madamX
      Posted May 4, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      Align mouth on center of screen…

    • Posted May 6, 2011 at 4:53 am | Permalink

      Yeah– do they have separate vacuum funnels for that? I don’t think they want to stick the one for bums in their mouths…

  8. madamX
    Posted May 4, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Where the hell is the “move camera” button?

  9. Posted May 4, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    This was of course foreshadowed in “2001: a Space Odyssey” though all we saw was the long list of instructions.

    I guess they couldn’t just have two buttons marked #1 and #2 and a chip, if they wanted it to be 100% reliable. (“Oh noes, ‘404 Not Found’!”)

    And why collect it in a bag when they could just discharge it to the outside, using the cabin pressure? (With a nozzle pointing towards the sun…)

  10. Posted May 5, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    My brother (who started his obligatory draft-era naval career as Ensign Benson, which all his loving relatives called him all the time) was stationed on an aircraft carrier in the early 60s, and they picked up one set of astronauts; he reported to us that they smelled absolutely godawful.

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