The International Space Station spent Sunday working on a piece of equipment that converts sweat and urine into drinkable water. Once that is up and functioning the crew can grow to six members.
The urine processor will only run for two hours before shutting down. The centrifuge was remounted on the $154 million water recycling system by commander Michael Fincke and astronaut Donald Pettit. The pair have been working on the project for the past three days. Once the system is running samples will be sent to a lab on Earth to see if it’s doing the job right.
The new system was sent to the space lab by the space shuttle Endeavor last week. It has to be working correctly before next year when more astronauts will be living on the space station.
At this time three crew members are able to live on the station at a time. Next year the crew will double in size.
The mission may not be able to be finished by the time Endeavor undocks on Thanksgiving Day.
The seven other crew members that make up the Endeavor team were given part of Sunday off of work. For seven hours astronauts Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper and Stephen Bowen were outside of the space station cleaning and lubing a jammed joint. The joint allows the solar wings of the space station to follow the direction of the sun to generate power. They didn’t finish all of their tasks because Stefanyshyn-Piper lost a $100,000 tool kit during an earlier space walk.
“We really appreciate how hard you’re all working,” Mission Control radioed for them to come inside. “I know it’s painful to call it quits like that, but we think it’s the right thing to do.”