Feeds

Terror in orbit: ISS piss recycler in fire alarm mishap

Golden-Pond™ drinks module moistens space pants brows

The next step in data security

A quarter-billion-dollar recycler unit - shipped into orbit aboard the space shuttle so as to slake the thirst of hardworking astronauts with a revitalising crystal flow of their own reprocessed urine - is playing up.

According to the AP, space aces aboard the International Space Station (ISS), to which the shuttle Endeavour is currently docked, had managed to produce a "test batch" of urine by Thursday afternoon.

The NASA urine recycler in ground testing

Many a slip 'twixt the cup and the ... well.

No doubt parched after their exertions in unloading the shuttle's cargo of improvements to the station - of which the recycler is only one - the thirsty astronauts fired up the golden shower reprocessor unit. (Suggested trade name: Golden Pond™.) Unfortunately, a loud fire alarm was triggered at once, doubtless causing the luckless void-voyagers to fear that the machine had managed to create some kind of fearful piss-based combustible* rather than the wholesome thirst-quenching refreshments they had been looking forward to.

The threat of a devastating golden fire or explosion gutting the ISS was no doubt a sobering one, possibly leading to the unplanned escape of some potential recycler feedstock into the station's atmosphere. Crafty NASA lag-boffins had anticipated this, in fact, as the machine is designed to harvest evaporated bodily fluids as well as those deposited directly.

The fire alarm, heard over the radio, reportedly startled two astronauts doing maintenance work outside the station in spacesuits. Despite the sudden panic, however, neither of them allowed their toolbags to get away from them on this occasion.

The fire alarm was subsequently found to be spurious, and NASA ground controllers monitoring the complex urine-extractor hinted that snags in its embedded software might be to blame.

"These are the growing pains we expect to see," flight director Ginger Kerrick told reporters eager for details on the urine-related uproar.

"These are very complicated pieces of equipment with very complicated software to control them."

Once the re-wee machine is up and running smoothly, it's expected to allow the ISS to support six astronauts rather than the current trio. ®

Bootnote

*We are not making this ground for fear up. Urea-related compounds can in fact make effective explosives. Consider this text on fertiliser bombs: "Urea nitrate is also considered a type of fertilizer-based explosive ... Urea can be derived from concentrated urine."

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.