Follow this link to skip to                                      the main content


Text Size

Week 1: "Do I Have to Drink It?"
Beakers containing fluids from various stages of water processing That's the first question that enters my mind, naturally, when I find out that I've been approved to participate in a test of the updated Exploration Life Support (ELS) water recovery system. The ELS water recovery system, under development by researchers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Huntsville, Alabama, can produce potable water reclaimed from urine, perspiration, and respiration. It is part of the life support system that will soon provide the International Space Station with clean air and drinkable water.

About 100 people, myself included, will be running on treadmills, spinning on stationary bikes -- whatever form of torture we choose -- while scientists collect sweat from our weary limbs, moisture from our gasping breaths, and so on (you get the drift), and make yummy drinking water out of it.

Image above, right: The beakers contain fluids from various stages of water processing. The dark colored cylinders are filled with urine or sweat treated with Russian or U.S. formula pretreatment chemicals. The clear beakers contain the final product -- clean drinking water. Image credit: NASA/MSFC

They'll give us t-shirts to wear as we exercise and dry towels to wipe off our sweat. They'll keep the t-shirts and towels to harvest our sweat from. Not one drop of moisture we generate inside the module will escape back to the real world with us unless we get claustrophobic inside the module and make a break for it.

There I go with that negative self-talk again!

As I enter Building 4755 for an orientation session about ELS, I continue to debate myself about what I’ve gotten into.

"It's for a good cause," I tell myself, noble creature that I am, as I imagine slowly raising a glass of the system's new "product" to my mouth. "I'm helping the future of our Space program."

So why AM I about to embark on this unique exercise adventure?

An eager new employee and an avid, albeit untalented, runner, I blindly and enthusiastically (my trademark mode of operation) volunteered a few weeks ago to participate in the ELS water recovery system project before thinking through all the angles, such as having to sample the result.

As I enter the building and walk down the hall to the orientation meeting, it is time for some positive self-talk. There is no turning back.

"Okay. I got myself into this. I have to follow it through to the bitter end." (How's that for positive?)

I have to do better. "Just do it." Help from Nike.

I enter the room and sit down among the other volunteers. I'm sure the look on my face is just like theirs -- deer in headlights.

+ Learn More

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