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Air in Space

January 3, 2006

Even astronauts’ waste water is put to work in the extreme environment of space.


Why don’t astronauts run out of oxygen? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Astronauts stay in the International Space Station for about six months at a time. Listener Joan McDonald called to ask how they have enough oxygen to last them that long.

We turned to NASA engineer Aprille Ericsson. She tells us that the space station uses a process called electrolysis to pull the O out of the H-2-O in the astronauts’ waste water.

Basically we use electricity from the International Space Station solar panals to split molecules of water into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas.

They then dump the hydrogen and save the oxygen for breathing.

If you have a far-out science question, call us at 1-800-why-isit. If we use it on the air, you’ll win a Science Update mug. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.