CLOSE
iStock
iStock

How Does the Restroom in the International Space Station Work?

iStock
iStock

How does the restroom in the International Space Station work? Since there is no gravity there, I am assuming things are quite different.

Robert Frost:

You are right, the absence of gravitational acceleration makes things a bit different.

Below is a picture of one of the toilets used for training purposes on the ground. The one onboard is almost identical.


The first thing an astronaut has to do is make sure he or she is seated properly. You can't just sit down in space, since there is no down. So, you'll notice there are straps to hold their feet so they won't float away, mid-use.

The next thing the astronaut has to do is make sure they are aligned correctly. There is actually a camera that looks up from the toilet so the crew member can make sure they are oriented properly.

Relieving oneself is not that different. It's a little different because on Earth gravity does play a role by pulling things down, but much of the movement of fluids and solids is initiated by muscles within the body.

Now here's where it gets really different: To replace the force of gravity to ensure waste goes down into the toilet, there is actually a vacuum hose that sucks the waste.

Urine is actually collected and then processed through a device that purifies the urine and converts it back into drinking water.

If the toilet is not working, one has to go into a baggy that has ampules that can be crushed to chemically react with the waste to prevent things like off-gassing and bacterial growth.

The bright side is that because of both changes in digestion and foods eaten, astronauts do not have to go to the bathroom as often as we do on Earth.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
iStock
iStock

Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Getty Images
arrow
Big Questions
How Are Balloons Chosen for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?
Getty Images
Getty Images

The balloons for this year's Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade range from the classics like Charlie Brown to more modern characters who have debuted in the past few years, including The Elf On The Shelf. New to the parade this year are Olaf from Disney's Frozen and Chase from Paw Patrol. But how does the retail giant choose which characters will appear in the lineup?

Balloon characters are chosen in different ways. For example, in 2011, Macy’s requested B. Boy after parade organizers saw the Tim Burton retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. (The company had been adding a series of art balloons to the parade lineup since 2005, which it called the Blue Sky Gallery.) When it comes to commercial balloons, though, it appears to be all about the Benjamins.

First-time balloons cost at least $190,000—this covers admission into the parade and the cost of balloon construction. After the initial year, companies can expect to pay Macy’s about $90,000 to get a character into the parade lineup. If you consider that the balloons are out for only an hour or so, that’s about $1500 a minute.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios