London, November 15 : NASA is launching a machine aboard the space shuttle Endeavour, which will recycle astronauts' urine for consumption as water.
"We did blind taste tests of the water. Nobody had any strong objections. Other than a faint taste of iodine, it is just as refreshing as any other kind of water," the Telegraph quoted NASA's Bob Bagdigian, the system's lead engineer, as saying.
"I've got some in my fridge. It tastes fine to me," he added.
The launch of the 250million-dollar wastewater recycling machine is part of NASA's 124th shuttle mission, which was launched on Friday evening from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The shuttle is expected to arrive at the space station on Sunday.
Besides the water recycler, Endeavour carries two small bedrooms, the station's first refrigerator, new exercise gear, and a second lavatory.
"With six people you really do need to have a two-bathroom house. It's a lot more convenient and a lot more efficient," said Endeavour astronaut Sandra Magnus.
NASA said that it wanted to ensure that the water-recycling machine worked well before adding three more astronauts to the station's crew.
NASA researchers said that they expected to process about six gallons, or 23 litres, of water per day with the new device.
They revealed that their objective was to recover about 92 per cent of the water from the crew's urine and moisture in the air.
As to the process of recycling the wasterwater, the researchers said that they used an extensive series of purification techniques like distillation - which is somewhat tricky in microgravity - filtration, oxidation, and ionisation.
Bagdigian said that the final step, that is, the addition of iodine helped prevent microbial growth.
He said that the device could process a full day's worth of wastewater in less than 24 hours.
"Today's drinking water was yesterday's waste," he said.