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Week 2: A Urine Processor by Any Other Name...
09.20.07
 
Marshall Chemist Joseph Scott monitors chemical levels in ambient air. "You can't fake sweat," says Keith Parrish, the ELS Test Branch Chief, as he explains the reasons for the test we are about to participate in.

I've been trying to tell my friends -- the ones who take diet pills instead of exercising in hopes of losing weight -- that for years.

But Parrish means this literally.

"We have to have real sweat," he says.

Parrish and his cohorts can't manufacture sweat. They need real sweat so the water recovery system’s ability to make drinking water from it can be tested.

Image above, right: Marshall Chemist Joseph Scott monitors the levels of certain chemicals in the ambient air to ensure they remain safe. During this test, low levels of Ethanol, Acetone, and Propylene Glycol are injected into the module to simulate the atmosphere astronauts experience during missions on the space station. Image credit: NASA/MSFC

I can flat make some sweat happen, and so can the other people assembled in this room. We do it every day when we run, bike, or walk. So why not donate it for a good cause?

"During this test, we'll be injecting low levels of Ethanol, Acetone, and Propylene Glycol into the module while you exercise. We have to make the atmosphere in the module consistent with that observed on the Space Station," he continues.

"Okay. Never mind what I said. I'm really not a very good sweater. See ya later," I think to myself as I look toward the door.

"The hazards associated with this process have been approved by the NASA Committee for Protection of Human Subjects and MSFC Facility Staff," says Parrish.

Just the other day I attended a rigorous half-day safety training session, so I understand that NASA's commitment to safety is for real. If this test meets their approval, it must be safe. So I stay.

As Parrish continues his presentation, I look around the room at the white boards on the walls. On one white board, some names are written with marks next to them as if a vote had been taken. Some of the names were:

The Pool
Caddy
Pee Wee
U-rene
Pee-tunia
Pre-treetia
Rain

I think they voted on these names in order to christen the Urine Processor. I ask about it and find out that they had been voting on names for a baby. One of the engineers was expecting, and all of her coworkers decided to help her name the baby. Shouldn't everyone have coworkers that thoughtful?

My personal favorite on the list was U-rene.

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Dauna Coulter (Schafer Corporation)
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center