In Space, Using The Toilet Is Quite An Operation : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture The film The Martian has people wondering about life in space. After talk of death runs out, conversation eventually turns to two topics: sex and going to the bathroom, says astrophysicist Adam Frank.
NPR logo In Space, Using The Toilet Is Quite An Operation

In Space, Using The Toilet Is Quite An Operation

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The enormous success of the film The Martian has a lot of people talking about life in space.

What is it really like spending months in small enclosure with a bunch of other astronauts while surrounded by death via a hard vacuum? People being people, it turns out that after running through all the gory details of death by hard vacuum, the conversation eventually turns to two topics: sex and going to the bathroom.

I'm not going anywhere near the "sex in space" question. Sorry.

But in the interest of the eventual human colonization of the solar system, I can help with the second question. How do astronauts do their business while weightlessness?

In this excellent presentation, the charming Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti walks us through the operation of what appear to be some pretty uncomfortable (and apparently pretty loud) devices in the outhouse of the International Space Station.

After watching this three-minute video, I guarantee you will have something interesting to say at your next cocktail party.


Adam Frank is a co-founder of the 13.7 blog, an astrophysics professor at the University of Rochester, a book author and a self-described "evangelist of science." You can keep up with more of what Adam is thinking on Facebook and Twitter: @adamfrank4.