Excreting on the ISS

November 28, 2020 • 2:00 pm

Don’t deny that you’ve wondered “How do astronauts go to the bathroom?”  Well, this official NASA video gives you the answer, at least for the International Space Station, and it all looks like a pretty dire job. That toilet is scary.

The narration and demonstration (no real excretions were filmed) is done by Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy, who does his descriptions straight-up, without a touch of humor.  There are also videos online videos about how to keep your body clean in space (see this one about hair washing), but Lord, these astronauts must be pretty rank after a six-month stint!

19 thoughts on “Excreting on the ISS

  1. Next we’ll show you how to shower since you will need to do this every time you go to the bathroom. Who does the laundry up there? I guess all the shaving would be electric?

  2. Apparently my WordPress “account” — if that’s what it was —disappeared between the Hili Dialogue and this post.

  3. I did want to go to space. No longer! Unless it’s a short trip, of course. Or they master artificial gravity so our sewage system can be used as it is on Earth. (Our Elon Musk, let shitting in heaven be as it is on Earth.)

  4. I once watched an interview with a female astronaut who was asked what was her biggest surprise on arriving at the ISS. She replied, “The smell.” The same clothes are worn for a week, then used as exercise clothing for another week. She compared the baseline odor of the space station to a bad gym locker room.

  5. … Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy, who does his descriptions straight-up, without a touch of humor.

    I thought I detected a spot of drollness.

      1. The workout facilities and the view from the cupola seem first-rate.

        The food and the john — I’m sure I’ve seen better. 🙂

  6. Scott kelley’s book “endurance” describes his year on station and those day to day hygene issues as well as re-acclimation to earth environment. He is astronaut mark kelley’s twin and former congresswoman gabby giffords brother in law. An excellent book on the reality of life on station. It is no picnic for these fuys and gals.

    1. Here are the instructions as seen in the film,
      The toilet is of the standard zero-gravity type. Depending on requirements, System A and/or System B can be used, details of which are clearly marked in the toilet compartment. When operating System A, depress lever and a plastic dalkron eliminator will be dispensed through the slot immediately underneath. When you have fastened the adhesive lip, attach connection marked by the large “X” outlet hose. Twist the silver coloured ring one inch below the connection point until you feel it lock.
      The toilet is now ready for use. The Sonovac cleanser is activated by the small switch on the lip. When securing, twist the ring back to its initial-condition, so that the two orange line meet. Disconnect. Place the dalkron eliminator in the vacuum receptacle to the rear. Activate by pressing the blue button.
      The controls for System B are located on the opposite wall. The red release switch places the uroliminator into position; it can be adjusted manually up or down by pressing the blue manual release button. The opening is self adjusting. To secure after use, press the green button which simultaneously activates the evaporator and returns the uroliminator to its storage position.
      You may leave the lavatory if the green exit light is on over the door. If the red light is illuminated, one of the lavatory facilities is not properly secured. Press the “Stewardess” call button on the right of the door. She will secure all facilities from her controll panel outside. When gren exit light goes on you may open the door and leave. Please close the door behind you.
      To use the Sonoshower, first undress and place all your clothes in the clothes rack. Put on the velcro slippers located in the cabinet immediately below. Enter the shower. On the control panel to your upper right upon entering you will see a “Shower seal” button. Press to activate. A green light will then be illuminated immediately below. On the intensity knob select the desired setting. Now depress the Sonovac activation lever. Bathe normally.
      The Sonovac will automatically go off after three minutes unless you activate the “Manual off” over-ride switch by flipping it up. When you are ready to leave, press the blue “Shower seal” release button. The door will open and you may leave. Please remove the velcro slippers and place them in their container.
      If the red light above this panel is on, the toilet is in use. When the green light is illuminated you may enter. However, you must carefully follow all instructions when using the facilities duting coasting (Zero G) flight. Inside there are three facilities: (1) the Sonowasher, (2) the Sonoshower, (3) the toilet. All three are designed to be used under weightless conditions. Please observe the sequence of operations for each individual facility.
      Two modes for Sonowashing your face and hands are available, the “moist-towel” mode and the “Sonovac” ultrasonic cleaner mode. You may select either mode by moving the appropriate lever to the “Activate” position.

      If you choose the “moist-towel” mode, depress the indicated yellow button and withdraw item. When you have finished, discard the towel in the vacuum dispenser, holding the indicated lever in the “active” position until the green light goes on…showing that the rollers have passed the towel completely into the dispenser. If you desire an additional towel, press the yellow button and repeat the cycle.
      If you prefer the “Sonovac” ultrasonic cleaning mode, press the indicated blue button. When the twin panels open, pull forward by rings A & B. For cleaning the hands, use in this position. Set the timer to positions 10, 20, 30 or 40…indicative of the number of seconds required. The knob to the left, just below the blue light, has three settings, low, medium or high. For normal use, the medium setting is suggested.
      After these settings have been made, you can activate the device by switching to the “ON” position the clearly marked red switch. If during the washing operation, you wish to change the settings, place the “manual off” over-ride switch in the “OFF” position. you may now make the change and repeat the cycle.
      2001: Zero Gravity Toilet Instructions / Last modified: Mon May 21 15:34:24 2007

  7. It must be simple to determine who farted on the ISS too. At the moment of olfactory assault, one quick glance around the capsule and an instant assessment of fellow crew ass vectors assuming conservation of momentum and the blame can be assigned.

  8. I watched The Martian last night in honor of Red Planet Day. It’s not zero gravity, but defecation figures prominently in the ability of the stranded astronaut to grow crops in the otherwise largely infertile Martian soil.


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