Here's the big innovation that will be accompanying the space shuttle on its final launch this Friday: A zero-energy still that converts urine into a sweet, drinkable liquid. Still want to be an astronaut when you grow up?
The shuttle already carries urine-recycling equipment, but it's heavy and a big drain on the craft's limited electricity. The new filtration kit is the size of a large book and relies on a process called forward osmosis, which doesn't require outside power. Instead, electrolytes pull fluid through a semi-permeable boundary, leaving contaminants behind. The resulting liquid supposedly tastes like Capri Sun, which says something about Capri Sun if you ask me.
This is great in space, where power is at a premium and weight is a major concern. But it could also be a boon in developing countries with water shortages — the small size makes it easy to transport, and the power economy makes it easy to deploy anywhere. Cap-Pee Sun could join freeze-dried ice cream as one of NASA's greatest contributions to society.
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