Poop. Everybody does it. Even in space.
Some of you are uncomfortable talking about poop. Sorry. We're in favor of discussing poop on this blog. Thankfully, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is also pro-poop talk and provided a stellar (pun definitely intended) tutorial on how to make No. 2 on the International Space Station.
"Let's say you're up here on ISS, and you need to go to the restroom," said Cristoforetti, as she began her tutorial. Excellent. That's among the first five questions I'd ask when I got up there.
Cristoforetti — a member of the Orbital Outhouse Team — provided the delightful tour in a clip from the European Space Agency. The main takeaway: The weightlessness in space means you need to use suction to get rid of your business.
The seated space toilet, meant for pooping, has a fan connected to it that creates the suction. Waste ends up in a plastic bag that astronauts push down into a solid waste container, which is changed "roughly every 10 days," according to Cristoforetti. (Urine gets recycled, she noted.)
Pooping in space has sure come a long way from the 1960s, when astronauts used adhesives to attach fecal collection bags to their butts. Going to the bathroom back then could take up to an hour.
Now, astronauts have toilets and require special training, as this 2010 NASA video explains: "Alignment's your friend," said Scott Weinstein, a crew habitability trainer with the space agency.
The toilet on ISS has a seat that "sort of looks comfortable, but you don't really sit in weightlessness," Cristoforetti said.
Most of the astronauts prefer to open another component on the toilet and hover the contraption, according to Cristoforetti. That's a delightful piece of info — a space-pooping pro-tip — and I like to imagine that the astronauts casually traded pooping techniques with one another.
Here is Cristoforetti's tour of the rest of the bathroom: