When you have to go, you have to go, and according to one international space station’s three-toilet flush counter, astronauts have visited more than 40,000 times in the last 20 years.
ISS current crew member Thomas Pesquet reported the news in a Twitter post on Wednesday, May 12th.
Clearly happy to see the toilet counter reaching a new landmark, Pesquet tweeted, “40,000 times this open toilet has been used, a milestone!” He added: “We must maintain it because clean sanitation and wastewater treatment are human rights and a UN goal of sustainable development.”
This open toilet has been used 40,000 times, a milestone! We need to preserve it, because clean sanitation and wastewater treatment are human rights and a @UN The goal of sustainable development. #MissionAlpha # SDG6 pic.twitter.com/ekQYXB3CTc
& mdash; Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) May 12, 2021
The space station currently has three toilets, so it should be noted that the habitable satellite has actually hosted thousands of other flushing events over the years.
The microgravity conditions on the ISS, of course, mean that going to the bathroom in space is a very different process than here on Earth.
For example, space station toilets use a suction mechanism to trap urine before it has a chance to float away and cause a mess. (Interesting review: Once the urine is removed, it is filtered and treated into drinking water.)
The solid waste drips into a plastic bag before sealing and is placed in a container at the bottom of the toilet, which is emptied after about 30 layers. And no, solid waste is not processed into food. Instead, it returns to the Earth’s atmosphere when it is removed as part of the station’s trash, while a small amount is sent to Earth for scientific analysis.
The latest chest of drawers arrived at the space station last year. Known as a universal waste management system, the compact configuration is more ergonomic than the other two toilets and is built with more durable components that reduce the need for maintenance.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy revealed last year that he was most often asked, “How do astronauts go to the bathroom?” In the video below, he kindly offers a process walkthrough station on the latest toilet.
The ISS usually hosts about six astronauts, albeit during a busy crew rotation last month, it had 11 ships for a momentwhich puts a little more pressure on resources and possibly causes an occasional line outside the bathroom or two. Former NASA astronaut Nicole Stott commented on the unusual situation: “It’s a blessing there are now three toilets.”