NASA: Flushing Money Away

There are times when you'd pay just about anything to find a clean restroom. I often encounter these times on visits to "low cost" countries on sourcing expeditions. But even I have my limits. Like paying $19 million for a toilet system, just as NASA recently did. According to an ABC News story, "NASA has agreed to pay $19 million for a Russian-built toilet system for the international space station. The figure may sound astronomical for a toilet in space, but NASA officials said it was cheaper than building their own."

Now, this device has some pretty cool features. In fact, it brings me back to grade school when kids would dare each other to drink pee. Apparently, it "will be able to transfer urine to a device that can produce drinking water." Hmmm ... I'd rather fancy a Pellegrino, but at 250 miles above the earth, beggers can't be choosers, I suppose.

So what else are taxpayers getting for $19 million bucks? "The space station toilet physically resembles those used on Earth, except it has leg restraints and thigh bars to keep astronauts and cosmonauts in place. Fans suck waste into the commode. Crew members also have individual urine funnels which are attached to hoses, and the urine is deposited into a wastewater tank."

Sounds like a fascinating chemistry experiment. But is it really worth the money? I suppose someone will have to pull the flusher while in orbit to find out. Hat-tip: Tony Poshek.

Jason Busch

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