Monday, November 10, 2008

Astronauts head for extreme home makeover in space

The international space station is about to get all the comforts of a modern, high-end, "green" home: a fancy recycling water filter, a new fridge, extra bedrooms, workout equipment and the essential half-bath.

It will be a home makeover in the extreme. The space station will go from a three-bedroom, one-bath house with kitchenette to a five-bedroom, two-bath house with two kitchenettes and the latest gizmos NASA has to offer.

To be more precise, astronauts will be installing an extra toilet, more sleeping compartments with individual thermostats and laptop hookups, and an exercise machine capable of some 30 routines.

They also will be delivering the essentials of NASA's first attempt at a closed-loop environmental system in orbit, where almost everything gets recycled. Already, the power on the space station is generated from solar panels.

Most significant is the water recovery system - it will turn urine and condensation into fresh drinking water. The system is essential if NASA is to increase the size of the space station crew from three to six. That switch is supposed to occur by the middle of next year.

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