NASA And Water Security Working On A Stillsuit

At NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Houston, employees run on treadmills as their sweat, respiratory moisture and urine are collected, processed and finally - consumed. The Water Security filtration system is being used to find a way to recycle the water used by astronauts, rather than hauling it into orbit at $7,000 per pound.

(From Water Security Filtration System)

What they seem to be looking for is the water and waste recycling capabilities of the stillsuit, from Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune. This special garment was worn to recycle all moisture used by the wearer:

"It's basically a micro-sandwich--a high-efficiency filter and heat-exchange system." He adjusted the shoulder seals. "The skin-contact layer's porous. Perspiration passes through it, having cooled the body . . . near-normal evaporation process. The next two layers . . . " Kynes tightened the chest fit. ". . . include heat exchange filaments and salt precipitators. Salt's reclaimed."

"Breathe deeply," Kynes said.

Kynes studied the underarm seals, adjusted one. "Motions of the body, especially breathing," he said, "and some osmotic action provide the pumping force." He loosened the chest fit slightly. "Reclaimed water circulates to catchpockets from which you draw it through this tube in the clip at your neck..."

Kynes knelt, examined the leg seals. "Urine and feces are processed in the thigh pads," he said, and stood up, felt the neck fitting, lifted a sectioned flap there. "In the open desert, you wear this filter across your face, this tube in the nostrils with these plugs to insure a tight fit. Breathe in through the mouth filter, out through the nose tube. With a Fremen suit in good working order, you won't lose more than a thimbleful of moisture a day..."

Gemini and Apollo astronauts dealt with fecal matter by sealing it into a bag and kneading it with a liquid-bactericide to provide "feces stabilization." Solid waste on the space shuttle is freeze-dried and then transported back to Earth. "Gray water" is tossed overboard to orbit the planet.

The Water Security filter does not solve the solid waste problem, but all other water and moisture can be collected for recycling and reuse.

Read more at The Big Gulp; thanks to Justin Kennedy for suggesting this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/15/2005)

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