Did you know that the US and Russian sections of the International Space Station have long used separate water purification systems? It’s due to a dispute reaching back to the 80s over best water filtration practices. But, Bloomberg reports that a more pressing difference in the two sections’ processes centers around a less fun fact: The NASA crew are collecting the urine from all of the ISS crews, including our Soviet space neighbors.
Sadly, the piss-inclusive results produce just slightly more drinkable water than the pee-free refreshment enjoyed by their Russian counterparts, who only use shower runoff and condensate (the collected breath, sweat and accumulated condensation of the crew).
NASA employs an iodine-based filtration system to process urine, condensate, and shower runoff. The system is based upon a long-standing, but inefficient, practice utilized by US troops in areas where water quality could be compromised. An extra step must be implemented in order to make the water potable, since iodine cannot be consumed in any large quantities before it starts to affect the thyroid glands.
The Russian filtration system, however, has been using ultra-efficient silver in its ionic form to process water since the Soviet Mir station launched in the mid-80s.
This is becoming more widely known after a series of failed launches from SpaceX and Orbital Sciences have delayed the delivery of necessary replacement filters for NASA crew members. Future NASA missions will employ the silver-ion method, but for the piss-guzzling astronauts on the ISS right now, there is only one small comfort to be gleaned from their current predicament—they’re not drinking ALL the pee. “We don’t do 100 percent of the Russian urine. It depends on our time availability.” Sounds like a good excuse to start a social media account.