Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Pretty cool application of technology originally meant for astronauts.

There are plenty of wells in Iraq, but the dead animals dumped there when Saddam Hussein was in power have contaminated them. There are plenty of streams in southeast Asia, but the recent tsunami polluted them with salt from the ocean.

How do you quench someone's thirst when there is plenty of water, but not a drop of it is drinkable?

It's a question NASA researchers have pondered for nearly two decades, but villagers in Iraq and tsunami victims in Asia will get a taste of their answer as early as this fall — before any astronaut in space does.

The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., has been testing a device intended for the space station that would recycle astronauts' sweat, respiration and even urine into drinking water purer than any found in a tap.

"They just breathe and exercise, urinate into the urinal and our system handles the rest," said Robyn Carrasquillo, chief of the environmental control and life support division at Marshall.

It could be two years before the water system — as large as two refrigerators — is loaded onto a shuttle to serve an American astronaut and Russian cosmonaut living in space. But smaller and simpler versions will soon be put to use on earth.

Reno, Nev.-based investment firm Crestridge and the charity Concern for Kids are developing the systems for humanitarian purposes in nations lacking a reliable water supply, starting with Iraq and countries in southeast Asia.
(full article)

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