Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Support NHPR's local journalism that brings clarity, context, and community!

In Space, Using The Toilet Is Quite An Operation

The enormous success of the film The Martian has a lot of people talking about life in space.

What is it really like spending months in small enclosure with a bunch of other astronauts while surrounded by death via a hard vacuum? People being people, it turns out that after running through all the gory details of death by hard vacuum, the conversation eventually turns to two topics: sex and going to the bathroom.

I'm not going anywhere near the "sex in space" question. Sorry.

But in the interest of the eventual human colonization of the solar system, I can help with the second question. How do astronauts do their business while weightlessness?

In this excellent presentation, the charming Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti walks us through the operation of what appear to be some pretty uncomfortable (and apparently pretty loud) devices in the outhouse of the International Space Station.

After watching this three-minute video, I guarantee you will have something interesting to say at your next cocktail party.


Adam Frank is a co-founder of the 13.7 blog, an astrophysics professor at the University of Rochester, a book author and a self-described "evangelist of science." You can keep up with more of what Adam is thinking on Facebook and Twitter: @adamfrank4.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Adam Frank was a contributor to the NPR blog 13.7: Cosmos & Culture. A professor at the University of Rochester, Frank is a theoretical/computational astrophysicist and currently heads a research group developing supercomputer code to study the formation and death of stars. Frank's research has also explored the evolution of newly born planets and the structure of clouds in the interstellar medium. Recently, he has begun work in the fields of astrobiology and network theory/data science. Frank also holds a joint appointment at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, a Department of Energy fusion lab.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.