At some point in our lives, we’ve all looked up into the wonders of the vast galaxy above us and asked ourselves, “how do they use the bathroom up there?”
That’s right, we’re going to talk about plumbing in space.
Because even when you’re an astronaut working on the International Space Station, you still need toilet repair, and Triton Plumbing is here to tell you how it works.
You may be asking yourself: how does it work, and where does it go? Can they take a shower up there?
Keep reading to find out.
They Have Toilets In Space???
It’s true, there are toilets in space. They even look a bit like our Earth toilets, but the more high-tech version.
Space toilets use a commode for solid wastes and a urinal for liquid wastes. Astronauts can optionally use a funnel, depending on if they want to stand up or sit down- and yes, anybody can stand up to pee in space.
On the ISS, these toilets are separated from the rest of the station by only a curtain, not a wall or door. The seats are about 10cm in diameter.
Even though the design of a toilet shares similarities to Earth, staying in place in zero gravity presents more of a challenge.
How Do They Stop From Floating Away While Using It?
The lack of gravity makes using the toilet a significantly bigger challenge, so toilets in space need to be designed to keep the user in place.
To compensate for this, toilets come equipped with foot restraints if the astronaut chooses to sit, or a toe bar to slip the feet under if they’re standing.
They also have a thigh bar, similar to what you see on a roller coaster, and fabric fasteners that go around the thighs. Imagine having to strap yourself down every time you need to use the washroom!
Since their bodies are floating, astronauts use a training device that’s equipped with a camera to aim.
Now that we know what the astronauts do, let’s ask ourselves the big question — where does the waste go?
Where Does It Go?
Gravity doesn’t just affect people: it affects waste, too. In order to keep a confined space like a ship or space station sanitary and smelling good, space toilets have to use unique disposal methods.
When flushing, they use air instead of water for waste removal, pulling the waste away from the astronaut’s body. The air is then filtered for bacteria and smell before it’s returned back into the cabin.
It may sound gross, but with limited air on board, every bit needs to be preserved.
On ships like the Russian Soyuz ships and the American Space Shuttles before they were retired, solid waste is dried, compressed, and stored on board to be removed on landing, and liquid waste is sent into space.
On the ISS, liquid waste is treated and turned back into drinking water, and solid waste is sealed, collected, and sent into space.
How Do You Go To The Bathroom In A Space Suit?
When astronauts are out in the void of space, or when they’re in takeoff or landing, toilets can’t be used. And of course, it can take an hour or more to put on a space suit and take it off.
They have to use the convenient, if unappetizing, alternative: superabsorbent adult diapers.
After use, they are disposed of in a special storage area of the spacecraft.
Are There Showers In Space?
Some special spacecraft can come with a sort of shower; it’s a plastic cylinder that’s completely enclosed by a floor-to-ceiling sleeve to keep water from floating away. Astronauts rinse themselves with water from a nozzle, and then use a vacuum to suck up water from their skin and the shower around them.
However, most spacecraft do not come with showers.
Since quarters are so confined and space suits can get pretty smelly, astronauts do need to use alternative methods of cleaning.
When they need to bathe, astronauts usually take sponge baths, washing with a wet, soapy cloth and then rinsing with a wet washcloth.
Still want to be an astronaut?
Call Triton Plumbing & Service
Although we don’t service space toilets (yet!), Triton Plumbing & Service is able to assist with all of your Earth toilet needs.
We are highly experienced professionals and can service all of your plumbing needs, from toilets to sinks to showers.
Call Triton Plumbing & Service today.