NASA Recovers 98 Percent of Water From Astronaut Breath, Sweat, and Urine

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Going to space is not a mean feat by any standards. Besides leaving the very planet that we all call home, astronauts have to survive in challenging conditions during the entirety of their missions. That is where they put their survival in the hands of science. And for what it’s worth, it often pays off in unimaginable ways. 

One such example is the NASA urine purification technology, which recycles and purifies astronaut urine to recover pure water. This not only provides astronauts with an ongoing supply of water, but also ensures that they can put their concerns about hydration at bay. 

NASA Urine Purification System Reaches New Milestone

As a part of ongoing advancement for the technology, NASA has recently achieved a breakthrough of recovering up to 98 percent water from astronaut urine, sweat, and breath. This means that from the water storage that astronauts take into space, 98 percent water can be recovered after usage. 

The water recovery milestone was announced by NASA on June 20, 2023. According to the agency, it has been able to achieve the breakthrough for astronauts on the International Space Station. It has all become possible with the sophisticated technology that the space station’s Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) carries with it. 

Before the breakthrough, the ECLSS had been able to purify 93-94 percent of water content from astronaut urine, sweat, and breath. But now, the life support system has achieved the feat of taking this amount to 98 percent. 

The Feat Became Possible With the Addition of a Newer Subsystem

The ECLSS uses several systems to recover and reuse water that astronauts take into space. This includes specialized dehumidifiers to capture moisture from astronaut sweat and breath; a Urine Processor Assembly (UPA) to distill urine and recover water; and a Water Processor Assembly (WPA) to deliver clean water. 

Previously, the collection of these and other associated systems recovers 93-94 percent water content. But the more recent addition of a Brine Processor Assembly (BPA) to this system has taken this to 98 percent of water content. When the UPA distills urine, it leaves behind urine brine. The BPA further recovers additional water from this brine and makes it available for use through the WPA.

The Recovered Water is Completely Safe and Healthy to Drink

Besides using the NASA urine purification technology, the WPA also adds iodine to the water in order to dispel any unwanted microbes. When put together, these processes make the recovered water completely distinguishable from urine, sweat, and breath. In turn, NASA teams are confident that the recovered water that astronauts drink is even cleaner than the one that is available to us on Earth. 

With the breakthrough, NASA will be able to send astronauts on longer missions with lesser water supply. When astronauts do not have to fret about preserving the water that they take on board with them, they can safely concentrate on the core objectives of their mission. This also resolves the requirement for doing supply missions every now and then, which preserves resources and allows to redirect them to other missions.

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