Thursday, May 21, 2009
Dirty Little Secret
This story has been floating around for quite a while in cyberspace, and has also been rather extensively addressed by the media as well.
The story is about the International Space Station (ISS), where a new recycling system has been installed for the astronauts. So far this is a boring story, but what if I told you that the water from the toilet is recycled back to drinking water. Yes, the astronauts are recycling their own urine back into drinking water!
Well… I'll let you in on a dirty little secret. Do you know where your drinking water comes from? If you live in Austin it probably means that it comes from the Colorado River like Town Lake. Where does this water come from? Well, upstream of course, it’s a river after all, and when you travel up-river, you travel through Lakeway, Lago Vista, Marble Falls etc.
Now you may be surprised, but the people there go to the bathroom, and their sewage is processed and released… in… yes? Can you guess it? The very same Colorado River, which is then turned into drinking water.
My purpose is not to startle or to gross you out about drinking water from your kitchen tap, but instead to put things in rational perspective. Recycling in space is much more important than here on earth simply because the astronauts do not have the luxury of making a trip to the supermarket.
In space recycling is a matter of life and death, and in that respect, space travel is the only industry where the goal is to have a 100% level of recycling, and a lot can be learned from the technologies needed, or the experiences learned while doing it.
Ahh... All of this talking has made me thirsty. Well, now I'm off for a nice glass of recycled water from my tap.