Even on the harsh deserts of Arrakis, the the water recycling capacity of a stillsuit prevent the wearer from would only lose a thimbleful of water a day. If you figure a thimble holds about 10 milliliters of water, and an astronaut normally consumes 2.7 liters of water per day through eating and drinking, that’s only a loss of .4% of the body’s daily water. Pretty impressive for a desert race with long life but limited resources. (In case this wasn’t clear, I’m talking about
George Frank Herbert’s Dune here.)
Until recently, there was no need for us to try and engage with this sort of water recycling technology. In general, water has been plentiful in this world, and if it wasn’t we just piped it in. (I just re-saw Chinatown, so I’m feeling up on all this.) But increasingly short supplies of water in the American southwest and elsewhere have turned eyes to water recyling as at least a part of the long-term water supply solution. But to take a more extreme situation, let’s look at the final frontier, where there’s really no water at all. In fact, to transport water up to the International Space Station costs $15,000 a pint if we let the Russians do it, more if we send it up on Endeavor or Atlantis.
But today we got the marvelous news that instead of having to truck tons of water of space, the astronauts can just drink their own pee! (Yay?) Today marked a successful test of the International Space Station’s water recycling system. The astronauts marked the occasion by raising a baggie (no glass in space) of recycled water (née urine) in a toast, and taking it a sip. They deemed it delicious, and, after taking a few questions from reporters, went about their day.
It slides into view, slowly filling the frame: a giant spaceship, bristling with nacelles, antennas and other devices of unknown purpose. A deep rumbling pushes your sound system’s bass response to the limit. After a length of time, as determined by a complex interplay between how much awe or menace the director is trying to convey and the size of the special effects budget, a collection of glowing engines finally passes into view.