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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Children ask, taz answers: How do astronauts poop?

We want to know from children what questions concern them. We answer one every week. This question comes from Fridolin, 5 years old.

A toilet block floats in space

Huiii! Without gravity, every trip to the toilet becomes an adventure Photo: imago/zoonar

Before the astronauts get into the space capsule, they of course go to the toilet down on Earth, because there is no toilet on board. If you have a weak bladder or are afraid of having to fly during the four to six hour flight, put on a diaper and let it go.

Only on the ISS space station, which flies around 400 kilometers high around the earth (it takes around 94 minutes to orbit the earth), is there a real space toilet.

It works like this: You take a seat on the seat, strap your thighs tight so you stay seated, and place your bottom on an opening so that everything around it is sealed. The negative pressure sucks out the solid fiber, the “poo,” and puts it into a container. The liquid, i.e. the pee, flows into a funnel. The liquid can be cleaned and later even made into drinking water.

When using the toilet in space, it is particularly important that your bottom sits exactly on the opening, which is quite small. Because there is no gravity in space, anything that goes wrong doesn’t fall like it does on Earth, but floats around people’s heads. And of course nobody wants that.

Luckily, there is a camera under the toilet that shows whether you are sitting correctly. An American colleague once stuck his face into the toilet camera for fun – the video is very funny, you can watch it with your parents on the Internet. Photos of the space toilet can also be seen there.

This text comes from the weekday. Our weekly newspaper from the left! Every week, wochentaz is about the world as it is – and as it could be. A left-wing weekly newspaper with a voice, attitude and the special taz view of the world. New every Saturday at the kiosk and of course by subscription.

By the way, the astronauts don’t have to take off their spacesuit to go to the toilet. It is only worn outside, in space. In the space station everyone wears normal and comfortable clothes, mostly sweatpants.

Does it sometimes smell in the space station when something small goes wrong? Or, for example, when someone sweats? That can happen, but luckily there’s really good air conditioning up there, with fans that make a lot of wind. It does pull a bit, but the air is okay.

Thanks to Andreas Schütz from the German Aerospace Center!

Do you also have a question? Then write to us [email protected].

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