Many people dream about going to space, but one astronaut says that there's an aspect about space travel that isn't exactly paradise.
Who Is Peggy Whitson?
Peggy Whitson is a NASA astronaut and a former chief astronaut on the International Space Station. She gained fame for her 665 days in space, including 288 days on her most recent mission. It is the longest single flight in space by a woman.
She was also featured in the documentary series One Strange Rock on National Geographic.
"The floating, the sleeping, just being in zero gravity — it's so much easier to move. My joints don't ache nearly as much up there," Whitson told Space.com. "I love being in space. That zero-gravity part is really nice. Gravity sucks."
Whitson returned to Earth on September 3, 2017. Although she misses her time in space, there is one aspect that she doesn't have to worry about anymore.
"The space station is not really a hotel yet," she told Business Insider. "I would call it a camping trip."
The ISS is equipped with a $19,000 toilet made by Russian engineers. The toilet is known for its malfunctions, but it is better than the Maximum Absorbency Garment diapers that astronauts could wear as an alternative.
Defecating In Space
According to Whitson, the most difficult aspect about the space toilet is defecation. She said that the hole in the toilet bowl is roughly the size of a plate. A vacuum sucks the feces away and seals it in a plastic bag so that it can get disposed in the trash.
Within a few days, the plastic bags of feces get combined with the general trash from the ISS. All of the trash gets ejected to Earth so that it can get burned in the atmosphere.
This entire process sounds easy, but there are challenges about going to the bathroom and disposing the waste.
"You're trying to hit a pretty small target," she said. "After it starts getting full, you have to put a rubber glove on and pack it down."
There are numerous complications with this process. Sometimes, the toilet glitches and the feces starts floating away in the ship. It is the responsibility of the astronaut to catch it before it gets away.
Urinating In Space
Whitson says urination is an easier process. The toilet sucks the urine into a plumbing system. Between 80 and 85 percent of the urine gets recycled into drinking water. This process takes about eight days.