Where Does Your Waste Go In Space?

Getting the perfect bathroom, is a very personal and important task in your household, and one that takes time to get right. We often have the luxury of taking our time in building the bathroom of our dreams, but if you’re an astronaut, what do you do then? And where does all your waste go?

It’s Not All Glamour

Being an astronaut is the ultimate dream of many a bright-eyed schoolboy, reaching for the stars and discovering incredible new worlds. Films like Independence Day and Armageddon have presented a glamorous, heroic life, spent voyaging new worlds and battling aliens. However, the life of an astronaut is not all glamour.

It was on May 5, 1961 that the problem of the space bathroom became a reality. NASA astronaut Alan Shephard was the first American and second person in space. However, before his historic flight which was set to only take 15 minutes, Shephard had to sit through a 5 hour delay, at which time he really need the bathroom. NASA hadn’t even considered this as a possibility, and were understandably frustrated when he had to do his business is his shiny new spacesuit, which was wired with lots of important medical sensors.

F 334517 009 01/31/1971 Shepard During Suiting Up Activities Appolo 14 Mission Commander Alan Shepard Appears Relaxed During The Pre-Launch Suiting Activities.  (Photo By Nasa/Getty Images)

Risky Re-Entries

Obviously NASA couldn’t repeat the mistakes made with Shepard’s launch, so they looked to better ways to deal with waste in space. By the time of the last Project Mercury flight in 1963, NASA had taken the time to create a urine collection device that astronauts could wear inside the one-person spacecraft. However all was not smooth sailing.

At some point during the 34 hour mission, astronaut Gordon Cooper’s urine bag leaked, leading to droplets getting into the electronics and breaking his automatic systems. This lead to system after system in the capsule failing, resulting in a risky re-entry into the atmosphere. Clearly, not an ideal situation…


The Modern Solution

The question of going to the toilet in space still fascinates people to this day, and astronauts often claim that is the question that they are asked the most by people. Luckily astronauts like Chris Hadfield have seen the funny side, and are happy to provide a definitive answer.

So as Chris said, the next time you see a shooting star, it may just be an astronaut’s poop.

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