America and Russian Astronauts Can't Agree on the Best Way to Drink Urine

A taste dispute on the International Space Station.


File to Cold War Redux: Russian and American astronauts on the International Space Station can’t agree on how to handle urine.

It’s a more important question than you might think as the astronauts’ waste is a major part of their drinking supply. “It tastes like bottle water,” water subsystem manager Layne Carter told Bloomberg, “as long as you can psychologically get past the point that it’s recycled urine and condensate that comes out of the air.”

Condensate is a polite way of saying collected breath and sweat and shower runoff and animal urine.

Anyway, because it made sense to have different water filtration systems no one argued when the U.S. side of the space station decided to use iodine and the Russians went with silver. Iodine is good as a disinfectant but has to be filtered out before crew members drink it. Silver doesn’t have to be filtered, but you need to add epsom salts to make the taste more palatable.

Even though we might have different ideas on drinking urine, at least in space we can ignore international tensions and share and share alike. The Russians even give the U.S. side some of their runoff, to be filtered the American way, which is either really chill of them or a private joke.