Space Architecture

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Compromises on the Shuttle and ISS

ABC News has an amusing article on the compromises that astronauts have to make while in space. Here's an excerpt:

"The astronauts don't just toss the garbage overboard. The mandate is clean your plate and drink all the coffee in your drink bag because all the trash created on orbit has to fit in a container the size of a large kitchen garbage can. That is seven astronauts' times three meals times 12 or so days. The trick is to wrap it up as small as you can when you are done eating and then compress it even more and tape it shut."

People seem to be natural accumulators -- collecting things is easier for most than sorting or disposing. Another challenge with long-duration missions, when the (next) return trip is not scheduled to occur for next few months or years, is collecting all the garbage. Chucking it out the airlock is one option, but one might suppose that recycling all the material would be cheaper and more efficient in the long term.

Those considerations would need to be balanced out with the time and resources built into creating, launching, using, and maintaining the recycling systems. Even water is not completely recycled on board ISS. Developing technologies that create self-sustaining habitats are essential to long-term space development. Which is why projects like Biosphere 2 need to keep going, and be replicated by other organizations.


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