NASA has made an incredible leap forward in space technologies, opening up new perspectives for missions to the Moon and beyond. In a groundbreaking announcement reported by Space.com, the space agency revealed the success of the International Space Station’s (ISS) Environmental Life Support and Control System (ECLSS) in recycling 98 percent of the water astronauts bring to edge. A system so efficient that it could bring to mind the iconic “Tute Stil” described by Frank Herbert in his famous novel “Dune”. Using ‘advanced dehumidifiers’, part of the ECLSS captures the humidity generated by astronauts’ breath and sweat during their daily activities.
But it doesn’t end there. Another incredible component of this system, called the “Urine Processor Assembly”, is responsible for recovering water from the astronauts’ urine through a sophisticated vacuum distillation. NASA recently introduced an innovative device for extracting residual water from urine solution, thus bringing the water recovery rate on the ISS to 98 percent. Previously, the space station only recycled 93 to 94 percent of the water brought in by astronauts.
“This represents a critical step in the evolution of life support systems,” said Christopher Brown, member of the International Space Station’s life support systems team. “Imagine picking up 100 pounds of water on the station. We lose just two, while the remaining 98 percent are reintegrated into the system. A truly extraordinary result that demonstrates our incredible ability to keep this life cycle going ”.
If the idea of drinking water made from other people’s urine makes you turn up your nose, know that it is not at all. “The process is similar to that used in some water distribution systems on Earth, but adapted for microgravity,” explained Jill Williamson, head of water subsystems at NASA’s ECLSS. “The crew doesn’t drink urine, but water that has undergone a recovery, filtering and purification process that makes it even cleaner than what we drink here on Earth”.
According to Williamson, advanced systems such as ECLSS will be essential for future missions beyond Earth orbit. “By reducing the amount of water and oxygen we have to carry, we will have more space to do scientific research during missions,” Williamson said. “Reliable and robust regenerative systems allow the crew to concentrate fully on the main mission objective, without having to worry about essential resources.”
This achievement marks significant progress for the future of space missions, opening new frontiers and setting the stage for sustainable exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.