Educator Features

The Science of Space Recycling
Astronaut Bill McArthur with a long, plastic pouch of coffee
Where does water used on the International Space Station come from? What happens to the water when it's used? How are the station's water and air supplies connected? And what does any of that mean for your classroom?

Image to left: Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur shows a coffee container at the beginning of the video. Credit: NASA

NASA's newest educational resource answers all of those questions, and more. In a six-minute informal video, International Space Station Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur explains how other spacecraft bring water to the ISS and how it is used once it gets there. He also tells how water can be recycled or converted into air, using equipment on board the space shuttle and the station. The video is part of a series of educational demonstration activities, in which station crewmembers have discussed life and work in space.

Related Resources
+ Water Recycling Video

+ Closing the Loop: Recycling Water and Air in Space PDF

+ Download viewer
During the educational demonstration activity, station astronauts and cosmonauts talk informally in space about basic principles of science, math, physics, engineering and geography. The crew uses hardware already on board the ISS. The videotaped demonstrations address K-12 audiences, support national standards and enhance existing NASA education products and programs.

Accompanying the recycling video is a free, downloadable supplement. This additional material contains discussion questions and further insights that outline a number of related science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, concepts. The supplement equips educators with interesting information that is unique to NASA and is provided by its scientists and engineers. The supplement is aligned with national science learning standards and complements STEM lessons for grades 9-12. Educators of other grade levels may find them useful as well.

Shuttle fuel cell hardware
Image to right: Fuel cells that provide electrical power for the space shuttle also produce water that is used by space station crews. Credit: NASA

McArthur began his six-month mission on the International Space Station in October 2005, along with Russian flight engineer Valery Tokarev. The crew returned to Earth after handing the station over to the Expedition 13 crew in April 2006. McArthur performed his first educational demonstration activity early in his stay on the ISS. He recorded a lecture about the orbiting laboratory's large solar panels in which he showed how the station's power systems work. He also has demonstrated the importance of safety while working in the Destiny laboratory, shown how supplies are delivered to the station by the Russian Progress vehicle, and compared U.S. and Russian spacesuits. Look for these videos and their accompanying educator insights in the near future at the NASA Web site.

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services