PARIS: The US space agency has long been working on systems for regenerating or recycling air and water.
Today, NASA is able to recover up to 98% of the water that crews bring with them at the start of a long voyage. And this is a major advance for future long-distance space missions.
This takes the form, on the one hand, of a water recovery system and, on the other, of a treatment solution to make it safe to drink. Particularly sophisticated dehumidifiers capture the moisture released into the cabin air by the crew’s breathing and sweat.
Another sub-system recovers water from urine. A distillation process then gives rise to recoverable drinking water. To achieve this, the collected water is filtered via a special membrane, before being exposed to a blast of hot, dry air that evaporates all the water. It is this humid, clean air that is then recovered.
The system also adds iodine to the water to prevent the development of microbes. The water is then ready for use by the crew.
NASA says that each astronaut needs around a gallon of water a day (ie; just under four litres) for drinking, cooking, washing and brushing their teeth.
This breakthrough is a fundamental step in the development of life-support systems for (very) long-duration space missions in the future, notably to Mars.