It's a bit cliché to kick off a story about NASA with "Houston, we have a problem," but seriously, they've got a problem: the plumbing on the International Space Station is clogged, and NASA isn't exactly sure why, or how to fix it. To clarify, it's not the actual toilet component that's broken, but the $250 million system designed to recycle astronauts' urine, sweat, and exhaled vapor into clean, potable water.
Engineers working on the problem believe high concentrations of calcium in the astronauts' urine is causing deposits to build up, clogging the system that provides up to two-thirds of the water used on the station.
Before going into service in November 2008, the system was fully tested at NASA, but changes in the physiology of astronauts as well as the chemistry of astro-waste as it works through the processing system could be contributing to the problem. One theory holds that the higher calcium concentrations in the crew's urine may come from the bone loss that inevitably accompanies a zero-G lifestyle, but that idea has yet to be proved.
In the meantime, engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville are scrambling to pull together a solution before Space Shuttle Endeavour takes off for the ISS on Feb. 7. If they can't solve the cosmic clog by then, we suppose the station could always go back to dumping waste the way the space shuttles do. Or the astronauts could resort to simply holding it; the next nearest toilet is only 220 miles away.
Very interesting..I guess the calcium has to go somewhere right? Hope you guys do a follow up on this, I'm curious.
I'm with CoolHand032 - a follow-up would be neat. Dumping it isn't really the right answer, they need to get the calcium back into their systems.
They need CLR cleaner
The science guy with not such good news,and usually a different degree and field than you.Today says this. Lifter crews use a fiber bag to collect bathroom waste and just use a commode like system.
Ther is gravitation on system ships that go from planet to planet and galaxy to galaxy. They do not float about and it has been that way for thousands of years.
Lift motors are always on "Idle" whilst in space ,its just the same as on earth where gravitation is a simple engineered process here.
So ,bottom line,there are someones who keep regular folks and governments in the dark as to how things really work for a very specific purpose.
Im sure they laugh and laugh at NASA;s toilets along with the fact that it takes 4 to 8 days ,depending on position to get to mars,and also no huge amount of fuel is used to get out of the planets gravity field and no re-entry problems also,because of just a few very simple secrets.
..What are you taking? I want some.
Anyone that owns a caravan or RV with a chemical toilet knows that one of the big problems with them is the build up of calcium deposits in the holding tanks. I think NASA should take a trip to their local camping shop and pick up a bottle of tank cleaner.
They prolly left it at ground control to keep weight down, thinking over a normal period of time calcium has a slow build up. So somewhere there is an increase that was not accounted for, that is what the article is about. The unforseen amount of calcuim build-up, not weather or not they knew to clean the toilet.
What they need to do is separate out the calcium and then form it into a pill so the astronauts can take the pill reconstitute the calcium into their bodies or just consume it with the recycled 'calciumied' water.
So, how much solar energy have you used today?
EarthScientist, Im seeking the truth if you know so much enlighten me. My mind can handle it.
That's just disgusting. Then again, recycled urine is disgusting enough. Turn it into calcium pill, just plain weird.
Nomadicone1, If you desire information,ask specific questions. And why do you believe that you must share your state of mind to get enlightened?
EarthScientist, people like you make it difficult for people with legitimate theories and evidence of environmental issues, government cover ups, etc. to be taken seriously. On the other hand, I believe it should be "yet to be proven", not yet to be proved. I could be wrong.
Calcium loss apparently arises from lack of the compression forces bones get from gravity. It might be possible to produce the compression with a simple bungee harness the astronaut could use during sleep. The harness would consist of a belt and straps over the shoulders. The bungee cords would attach to the belt at the hips and deck. With an appropriate length of cord the pull could simulate gravity of any force necessary for the compression needed to keep calcium from leeching out.
If NASA really wanted to keep astronauts from loosing bone mass during trips to space, they would take a serious look at Static Contraction Training equipment. Cardio doesn't work, even high weight/low rep training isn't going to do it.
Static contraction type training is the only thing that uses simple equipment, no range of motion(less chance of injury), and compresses the bones of the body with hundreds, even thousands of pounds of pressure.
I've done this type of training before, and you are completely able to control how much muscle mass you put on by regulating how much force you apply for how long. No worries about over muscled astro's not fitting into their suits!!!
I'm actually amazed that this type of training hasn't been tested with proper equipment in pace to validate/invalidate its efficacy.
and if the astro's aren't loosing bone mass, no clogged toilets!!!