NASA has done a lot of cool things in its time, like putting the first man on the moon in 1969, but now the agency is attempting to do something even more spectacular than that: recycle urine into drinking water. It may sound disgusting, but it’s actually both an affordable and sustainable way for NASA to provide astronauts with clean drinking water.
Launching a shuttle into space is an extremely expensive endeavor, and so is launching water into space for the astronauts to drink. That’s why Michael Flynn, a life support engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffet Field, California, is working on a new technology that will allow astronauts to drink their own urine.
The process is called “forward osmosis.” Forward osmosis removes toxic waste and pollutants from the waste stream. How does it work? The process uses the potential energy difference between salt water and fresh and passes water across a permeable membrane. The contaminated material, salt and other organic matter is left behind while the water comes out clean and filtered.
Watch Flynn discuss the process:
What’s great about this process is that not only will the astronauts be able to drink their own urine, but they’ll also be able to take showers, flush toilets, wash their hands and do their laundry with it.
Now that’s one giant leap for mankind!