Thu, May 21, 2009
It Helps If You Don't Think About Where Its Been...
Its probably more of a
psychological exercise than a scientific one... after all, we've
had the technology to filter and purify water from a number of
not-so-palatable sources for a great number of years -- though it
sure hasn't been used THIS way. Still... it has to be one of those
"how much did you want this job, again?" moments as you take your
first sip of recycled H2O...
NASA's Mission Control gave the Expedition 19 astronaut crew
aboard the International Space Station a "go" to drink water that
the station's new recycling system has purified. Mission Control
radioed the news to the crew Wednesday, following a report from the
Water Recovery System team that station program managers approved.
The decision is an important milestone in the development of the
station's environmental and life support systems, which will begin
supporting six-person crews at the end of May.
Expedition 19 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineers
Mike Barratt and Koichi Wakata celebrated the decision with a toast
in the Destiny laboratory.
"This has been the stuff of science fiction. Everybody's talked
about recycling water in a closed loop system, but nobody's ever
done it before. Here we are today with the first round of recycled
water," said Barratt. "We're really happy for this day and for the
team that put this together. This is the kind of technology that
will get us to the moon and further."
"This is an important milestone in the development of the space
station," said Kirk Shireman, International Space Station deputy
program manager at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "This
system will reduce the amount of water we must launch to the
station once the shuttle retires and also test out a key technology
required for sending humans on long duration missions to the moon
Space shuttle Endeavour's STS-126 mission delivered the Water
Recovery System to the station in November 2008. Mission Specialist
Don Pettit and Expedition 18 Commander Mike Fincke installed the
equipment before Endeavour's departure. The system has been
processing urine into purified water since shuttle Discovery's
STS-119 crew delivered and installed a replacement Urine Processing
Assembly in March. The system is tied into the station's Waste and
Hygiene Compartment toilet and recovers and recycles moisture from
the station's atmosphere.
The crews of STS-126, Expedition 18 and STS-119 returned samples
of the recycled water to Earth. A total of 5.28 gallons of recycled
water were tested for purity at the Water and Microbiology
Laboratories at Johnson. A special Space Station Program Control
Board meeting on April 27 reviewed the analysis, which showed
contaminants were well below established limits, and concurred that
the water is safe and healthy to drink. Mission managers elected to
postpone consumption until a sticky check valve in the Urine
Processing Assembly was removed May 18.
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