Tension is bound to flare over the $19 million toilet NASA purchased from Russian aerospace firm RCS Energia, as only half of the International Space Station will enjoy the upgrade—the American side. The toilet justifies its steep price by being able to recycle urine as drinkable water, Waterworld-style.
The Russian half of the station is stuck with the old latrine. They'll have to continue to load up one of their unmanned cargo vessels with boxes of their leftovers and send it to burn up in the atmosphere, which is pretty much the equivalent of flushing right now in space.
The new toilet should be familiar to the crew as it is similar to the hole 'n hose model the station has employed since 2000, but it is designed to allow for more privacy. As water is notably scarce in orbit, the ability to generate an onboard source of it is very important. The US-made filtration system separates water molecules from waste by not letting anything larger than tiny water molecules through.
The fancy new space toilet comes as part of a $46 million upgrade package purchased by NASA. So far, the single toilet on the Russian half of the station is responsible for the crew of three. As the crew size will double to six in 2009, NASA no doubt saw the need for a additional toilet. Six people, one bathroom? Think the Brady Bunch, but in space. If Marcia takes too long dolling it up for the cosmonauts, Jan doesn't bang on the door and yell. She jettisons her.
$19 million toilet turns urine into water [Canada.com]