As the space shuttle Endeavour raced toward the International Space Station on Sunday, nothing did more for crew bonding than a water-recycling device that will process the astronaut's urine for communal consumption.
Delivery of the $ 250 million wastewater recycling gear is among the primary goals of National Aeronautics and Space Administration's 124th shuttle mission that thundered off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida today with a 32,000-pound payload on its 15-day mission.
Sandra H Magnus, who will stay at the ISS for several months, said that while many people expressed revulsion at the recycling system, she laughed about the 'yuck factor' because the purification would exceed that of most municipal water systems.
"I don't anticipate any problems with the purity of the water once we get this up and running correctly," she was quoted as saying by the New York Times.
NASA's Bob Bagdigian, the system's lead engineer, said nobody had any strong objections during 'blind taste tests of the water'.
NASA expects to process about six gallons (23 litres) of water per day with the new device. The goal is to recover about 92 per cent of the water from the crew's urine and moisture in the air.
"Today's drinking water was yesterday's waste," Bagdigian added.
Donald R Pettit, another of the Endeavour's astronauts, lived on the station for five and a half months in 2002 and 2003.
Petit said equipment like the water recycling system was critical to long-term space exploration, since getting new water to an outpost on the Moon or Mars would be expensive and arduous. "I really think this is a key steppingstone for human beings to leave planet Earth," he told the US daily.