Astronauts are already getting better ways to drink their whiskey, but now they may finally have a better way to drink something a little less nuanced.
A company called Aquaporin A/S has been hard at work on a new system to repurpose astronaut urine that is smaller, lighter and less likely to clog than the current one being used on the International Space Station. Yes, astronauts have already been drinking their own pee since 2009, but Smithsonian describes the current system as “heavy, slow and…prone to breaking down.” It treats water chemically and can only recycle 6,000 liters a year, far less than would be needed for something like a mission to Mars. The stakes are high: Each gallon of regular, non-recycled (read: not formerly urine) water sent into space reportedly costs over $80,000.
Aquaporin A/S’s system uses aquaporin molecules, a type of protein that occurs naturally in cell membranes. This allows their system to work “essentially the same way your kidney does,” says Smithsonian. NASA, who has worked with the Danish company since 2011, has spoken positively about the filter system in the past, and now, as of last week, Andreas Mogensen, a European Space Agency astronaut, is testing the system on the ISS—using it on three urine samples while he’s in space. Turns out space travel is always an adventure; sometimes in more ways than you’d like to know about.