Science

NASA Collecting 30 Litres of Employees' Urine Daily For Space Toilet Research

NASA workers at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston received what may be the high point in inter-office email last week requesting they begin to pay regular visits to the good folks of Hamilton Sundstrand, aka the “Wee Wee Contractors.” They’re collecting urine in massive quantities–30 litres per day–as part of their contract to build the toilet for the upcoming Orion lunar spacecraft. But why do they need so much? I’m sure it’s all there in the email…


The researchers need this massive amount to try to figure out what to do with all the urine the Orion astronauts will produce over the course of their missions on the lunar surface, which could last as long as six months. Urine is full of solid particles that tend to clog waste venting systems, making it a challenge to dispose of efficiently. And as Jeff Lewis, head of life support for the Orion craft told the AP, “you can’t make fake urine.” Here’s the full email in all its glory:

Sent: Friday, July 11, 2008 3:00 PM

Subject: Urine Collection Study Donor Request

Who: All Houston-SLS Associates, employees at 2200 Space Park, and any visitors to the building

What: Please donate your urine to our study

When: Monday, July 21 – Thursday, July 31 from 6 a.m. until goal amount is collected each day including weekends

Where: First floor lab Kick-off Meeting: Thursday, July 17 11-11:30 am in the first floor conference room

SLS-Houston Associates,

The Orion Program will be holding a urine collection study starting Monday, July 21 and running through Thursday, July 31, 2008. We are looking for donors as we need to collect a large amount of urine per day for the entire 11 day period. Please contact [deleted]at [deleted] @hs.utc.com to express interest in donating or to get answers to any questions you have regarding the study.

We will be hosting an informational meeting with encouraged attendance for potential urine donors from 11-11:30 a.m. Thursday, July 17, 2008 in the first floor conference room. In this meeting we will go over instructions and guidelines for the study and introduce volunteers to the equipment that will be used in the study. If you are unable to attend this meeting due to scheduling conflicts, we can set up another time to clarify the study operations on an individual basis.

Please see the attached Donor Guide for further information on donating.

Urine Collection – Donor Guide

General Guidelines

1. Do not add urine to the collection that was collected more than 1 hour before addition. This is necessary so that urine is exposed to the pretreatment chemical in a timely manner.

2. Do not add urine with blood in it into the system. This is an issue of personnel safety.

3. Some previous tests have limited donation size to 350mL per donation. While this is not a regulation of our testing, you are not encouraged to over-hydrate as this could dilute the urine we collect.

4. Our test is meant to be as flight-like as possible. This means that unlike in the doctor’s office, you do not need to worry about starting collection midstream. Our testing will be more accurate if you collect as much of the entire urination as possible including the beginning.

Procedure for donation

1. Donation

1. At work

1. Take a wide mouthed beaker to the bathroom to collect your urine. You may pick up a beaker from the first floor lab in advance.

2. Fill the beaker and take it to the first floor lab to pour it into the collection.

3. Fill out the donation sheet as instructed in step 2.

2. At home

1. If you are collecting urine at home in the morning before coming in to work, remember to take collection beakers and labels home with you. You are welcome to take both a wide mouthed beaker for collection and bottle with a lid for transport. Record the volume of your sample before transferring as the bottles with lids are not marked with volumetric measurements.

2. Once you put the urine into the bottle with a lid, fill out a label or a piece of masking tape with the time of collection and sample volume and stick it on the bottle.

3. Urine older than 1 hour cannot be put into the system, so please keep that in mind when collecting urine at home. We suggest that morning urine be collected at home but not nighttime urine.

2. Fill out the donation sheet with the following information:
1. Time of sample collection
2. Time of addition to the system
3. Volume

1. Measure donation volume while it is in the wide mouthed beaker, before pouring it into the bottle with a lid

4. Your donor number
1. A donor number will be assigned to you so that we can keep track of donations without listing names

[NASA Watch via AP]

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