When weightlessness is a burden: What are the astronauts silent about

“I began to figure out the distance to other windows. And Stas was silent for a moment and thoughtfully said: “Zero gravity ... But how, interestingly, the astronauts in zero gravity go to the toilet?” - Hey, don't you think! I yelled. “You can't endure a little bit!” Julius Burkin, Sergey Lukyanenko. "Today, mom!"

On May 5, 1961, NASA for the second time, after the first unsuccessful attempt, launched a man into space. The live broadcast riveted millions of Americans to television screens. The hero of the day was the astronaut Alan Shepard. Due to various technical problems, the launch of the ship was constantly delayed, and although it took only 15 minutes to fly, Shepard was in the spacesuit in the Freedom 7 capsule for the fourth hour and he was afraid to write.

Americans difficulties

While the viewers, following the reporters, wondered what the astronaut was thinking at such a grand moment, there was a wild commotion at the Mission Control Center. Alan said that there is no strength to endure longer, and experts in a terrible hurry decided what to do. The fact is that no one assumed that the flight would be delayed, and, accordingly, the possibility of going to the toilet for the astronaut was not provided. Finally the team came: "Do it right in the spacesuit." Experts decided that this was not dangerous, except that it was now impossible to control the heartbeat of the astronaut. The electrodes that gave these signals went crazy right away as soon as a warm stream reached them. But the flight was successful.

The second American astronaut, Gus Grissom, was ready for toilet problems. According to legend, he flew to a suborbite in a giant diaper, made up of several female pads. Adult diapers were not yet sold.

Forgotten Soviet stamps: Uralets

Later, when the Americans began to fly into orbit, astronauts began to equip a "more advanced" system. Special urinals collected urine, which was stored in the ship until the end of the flight, and during the Apollo program they began to throw it into open space. To solve a more complex physiological problem, the Americans glued a special bag with an adhesive tape to the anus with internal walls coated with absorbent material. After relief, the astronaut cleaned the body of impurities with a special protrusion of this bag, after which he carefully peeled it off, added a preservative inside and threw the clogged bag into the trash bin. For privacy, during this process, astronauts were allowed to turn off the on-board video camera. According to the American periodicals of those years, there were times when such a package was peeled off at the wrong time. Including because of this, many astronauts were depressed by a similar system, but before the appearance of the Shuttle they had to put up with it. To somehow alleviate the suffering of space explorers, NASA developed products for them that made it possible to use the packages as little as possible.

With care for the astronaut

In the USSR, initially they were preparing not for a 15-minute suborbital flight of a person, but for a real orbital flight. Therefore, life support issues for astronauts in space were thoroughly approached. If the Americans did not supply their astronaut with even the simplest urinal, then Gagarin, flying three weeks earlier, could, if necessary, satisfy both small and large needs in flight. Such exceptional concern for the first astronaut may seem strange today, but everything is explained by the fact that the “contingency” option was considered if the “Vostok” did not leave orbit by command at the right time. And in this case, it was supposed to land in 3-5 days, when Vostok was supposed to independently disengage from the satellite’s orbit according to the laws of ballistics. In this case, the so-called automated control system, that is, the “sanitation system”, was developed. But, since the descent from orbit went according to plan, Gagarin used this device only for small needs, and that, most likely, out of curiosity. As you know, Gagarin, contrary to the scheduled start-up schedule for the minutes, stopped the bus and went to the toilet shortly before the flight.

It's easier with girls

In the USSR, Korolyov entrusted the development of ACS for cosmonauts to Engineering Plant No. 918 (now OJSC NPP Zvezda). The main task of this enterprise was to create a spacesuit and an ejection seat, but since the first astronauts had to use the sewage system without leaving their seats and without removing their spacesuit, they decided that its development should be entrusted to Zvezda. The first automated control systems appeared in astronaut dogs. Excrement was sucked out from under the tail after a certain period of time, and moss was used to absorb the unpleasant odor. By the way, have you ever wondered why almost all the cosmonaut dogs were bitches? It turns out also because the development of a cesspool device for males was somewhat more difficult. However, the first such systems did not differ in perfection: it happened that dogs returned to Earth in a dirty form. ACS for people was a much more serious development and was created from scratch.

The Basics of Asustroeniya

“The principle of ACS operation has not changed since the flights of the first Vostoks, ” says Alexander Belov, designer of NPP Zvezda. “In zero gravity, separate reception of liquid and solid wastes is used, and vacuum suction replaces Earth's gravity here.”

To satisfy a small need, the astronaut on the very first systems opened a tap connecting his urinal with a urinal. At the same time, the fan automatically turned on and dragged a portion of the liquid into the urinal, where it was absorbed by absorbent material, and the air involved in the process was cleaned of harmful and unpleasant odors in a special deodorizing filter.

For solid waste in the receiving device, temporarily placed under the astronaut, was an insert. Elastic curtains at the inlet of the liner rolled up in preparation for flight, leaving the entrance open. At the end of the process, the astronaut used sanitary napkins, then dropped the liner shutters, and they completely covered the contents. And so that during the time when the curtains of the liner were still open, the waste was kept inside, the fan provided an air flow. Moreover, the liner walls were two-layer - porous inside and airtight on the outside, while the bottom, on the contrary, porous on the outside and airtight inside: due to this, the waste could not leak due to the vacuum created. The system was fairly easy to handle and more satisfactory in hygiene than the American one.

Toilet Progress

If the first ACS only remotely resembled an earth toilet, then decades later, progress became inevitable. The current Russian toilet on the ISS and the American toilet on the Shuttle are already close to Earth analogues in terms of ease of use and appearance. They only cost much more and require more time to use. Firstly, in case of great need, you need to fasten your seat to the toilet seat: this is done not only for convenience, but also because in a space toilet a person partially turns into a rocket with a jet engine. And secondly, there is no sewage system in space and cosmonauts have to spend some time on waste disposal. In the Russian segment of the ISS, urine is canned (using a 35% aqueous solution of sulfuric acid), and then sent to Earth. At the same time, instead of static separators, where urine is absorbed by the absorbent, which are used on Soyuz, dynamic ones are used on the ISS, where due to rotation and centrifugal forces it is fed into storage tanks. And at the Mir historic orbital station, so far the only time in world practice has been applied by the Khimmash Research Institute system, which regenerates water from urine.

The astronauts did not drink this water - oxygen was produced from it for breathing. Americans remove urine overboard, although they have already developed a similar system of water regeneration. But there is no need for it on the ISS yet.

Solid waste - both ours and American - is being returned to Earth. To reduce the volume of solid waste, the Americans dried them, connecting them for a while with a space vacuum, and then stored on the Shuttle until they returned to Earth. Russian astronauts store solid waste in containers, and then send it to Earth on the Progress transport ship.

Whose system is better? “Actually, when the Americans designed the toilet for the Shuttle, ” says Alexander Alexandrovich, “I decided that they had bypassed us. In terms of mass and dimensions, their toilet at that time exceeded our systems used at the Salyut orbital stations. But experience has shown that using our toilet is more convenient. ” For example, during the first flights on the Shuttle due to the freezing of waste in outer space, which required noticeable heat consumption, after each trip to the toilet, a time lapse was required, and a queue of astronauts “lined up” in the toilet. There were rumors from Mira and the ISS that not only Europeans, but also Americans who had the opportunity to compare, give preference to our toilet, and now, in the absence of Shuttle flights, they have no choice: the Russian toilet is so far the only one in orbit. “Repeatedly, representatives of American firms started talking about the possibility of our participation in the manufacture of automated control systems for their ships and the ISS segment, ” says Alexander Alexandrovich, “but it hasn’t come to the point yet."

The article was published in the journal Popular Mechanics (No. 6, June 2006). Do you like the article?

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