How do astronauts use toilets in space?

May 15, 2007

An interesting read sent to me by a colleague. I always thought that instead of taking normal food, astronauts/cosmonauts consume some sort of special food, may it be multivitamins et al.

Courtesy : BBC News

A tour of a space facility in the US apparently prompted Prince Philip to ask how astronauts deal with “natural functions” in space. So how exactly do they go to the toilet (or should that be the loo)?

It’s all to do with air flow. On earth, in the West at least, your standard toilet is a water-flush affair, that takes waste and washes it down a pipe.

The lack of gravity on the shuttle and the space station mean a water-flush system is not an option. You don’t need a particularly vivid imagination to see the potential problems.

Instead, on the shuttle, urine and faeces are carried away by rapid flow of air.

The unisex toilet resembles a conventional loo, but with straps over the feet and bars over the thighs to make sure that the astronauts don’t drift off mid-go. The seat is designed so the astronaut’s bottom can be perfectly flush to make a good seal.

The good news for fans of convenience is that, on the shuttle at least, urinating standing up is possible. A funnel-on-a-hose contraption is included so that astronauts – both male and female – can urinate standing up. Or sitting down if they prefer. They just attach it to the toilet using a pivoting bracket.

The system separates solid and liquid waste. Solids are compressed and remain on-board to be unloaded after landing. Liquids are released into space. Nasa hopes one day to recycle waste productively.

Researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada have said such recycling will be key to tackling any future mission to Mars in order to feed the astronauts.

The air used in the space shuttle’s toilet system has to be filtered to get rid of the smell and bacteria before it is returned to the living area.

Incinerated waste

On the International Space Station, the fundamental principle is similar. The fan-powered air-flow toilet system stores waste. Urine is sucked up and stored in 20 litre containers which are dumped into the Progress resupply craft. The ship is later ejected into the atmosphere, where it burns up.

For solid waste, a plastic bag covered in holes is placed inside the toilet. Air is sucked through the holes so everything ends up in the bag. The elasticised top closes and the bag is pushed into a metal container. A new bag is popped in for the next visitor. Again the waste heads off to Progress.

Space toilets have come a long way. In the book The Right Stuff and its film adaptation, an astronaut on an early mission feels the need to urinate during a massively delayed take-off. With no facilities provided – and no adult nappies, as used today during take-off and landing – he is eventually allowed to urinate in his suit, causing his sensors to go haywire.

And Prince Philip is among good company in wondering how astronauts attend to their bodily functions.

A spokesman for Nasa confirms it is a question much asked by children and journalists alike.


Microsoft, Google Battle on

May 15, 2007

Received this in a daily e-newsletter.

Gartner: Microsoft after Google’s advertising jugular
[Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer]
ltucci(at)techtarget(dot)com

The battle between Microsoft and Google Inc. took a lively turn last
week, when reports surfaced and then were quickly batted down that
Microsoft was once again in merger talks with search firm Yahoo Inc.

Whether the discussions are happening or not, any doubts that
Microsoft — not Google — is the company on the offensive can be
dismissed, said David Mitchell Smith, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in
Stamford, Conn.

“Microsoft is clearly going after Google’s core business,
advertising,” Smith said. “Google is trying to distract Microsoft, so
a company with its resources can’t apply 100% of its focus on the
attack.”

The chatter in recent months has been that Google is going after
Microsoft where it hurts — in the realm of work. Last year’s
acquisition of Writely by Google shows that office applications —
albeit Web-based, free and available at the click of a mouse — are
of interest to the Mountain View, Calif.-based search engine firm.

Continue reading on Tech Target


Stop Placating Pakistan

March 22, 2007

The Bush administration has looked the other way as its ally in the war on terror veers from democracy.

SUPPOSE THAT a supreme court justice in an unstable but pro-American country becomes unwilling to take his cues from the authoritarian government. He orders its intelligence services to answer charges that they are holding 100 citizens who have disappeared. He is widely believed to oppose a presidential scheme to get around a constitutional ban on running for reelection. The government suspends the justice and places him under house arrest. Street protests erupt, and government riot police using tear gas quell demonstrators, haul away opposition leaders and smash their way into a TV station that covers the controversy.

How does the U.S. government react? With few exceptions, in the bad old days of the Cold War, the United States turned a blind eye to such thuggery by friendly strongmen in Third World countries so long as they remained reliably anti-communist.

That was then. President Bush now argues that radical Islam showed that where freedom and opportunity were squelched — as in much of the Middle East — extremism would flourish. “We will encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people,” Bush declared in his second inaugural address. “America’s belief in human dignity will guide our policies, yet rights must be more than the grudging concessions of dictators; they are secured by free dissent and the participation of the governed.”

Yet Bush is failing to live up to his own standard, acting instead very much under Cold War rules. The above example is from Pakistan last week. President Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a coup more than seven years ago, continues to squelch his democratic domestic opposition and appears determined to engineer his reelection as president while retaining his post as army chief, in violation of the constitution. Yet so long as he mouths anti-terrorism bromides, Washington seems loath to mention his anti-democratic behavior — even as it shells out billions in aid to Pakistan each year. This flawed notion that there is no alternative to the friendly dictator, even when he is behaving like, well, a dictator, is the same logic that led the U.S. to cozy up to such anti-communist leaders as Anastasio Somoza of Nicaragua and the shah of Iran .

The Bush administration’s unwillingness to distance itself from Musharraf, or to at least express disapproval of his behavior, is shortsighted in the extreme. To sacrifice U.S. values to fight terrorism is to lose the broader struggle.

Source: LA Times


Target Iran : Friday, April 06, 200

March 16, 2007

United States is all set to pelt Iran’s Nuclear Installations thru its submarines & warships on Friday, April 06, 2007, a Russian Newspaper reports.

Arab TV announced that US has decided to destroy all 20 Nuclear installations of Iran – that’ll halt Iran’s Nuclear Program minimum for 5-7 years.

According to reports, US will whang Iran with air strikes at 4 AM early morning till 4 PM.

Russians have cautioned Iranians that if they don’t satisfy IAEA then Russia would be in no position to help Iran.

Russian Military experts envisage that after failure of dialogues between IAEA & Iran on 20th Feb, US preparations for attack have culminated to Rubicon (reached to the point of no return).

Sunday Herald