Peeing in Spaaaace

UCSD Jacob School of Engineering students take part in NASA program

Some local students are working on a fluid solution to solve a messy problem that's out of this world.

"Engineering students at UC San Diego are studying the fluid dynamics of water in order to build a more comfortable and sanitary urine collection device for space travel" says the Jacob School of Engineering press release. Translation: Those brainiacs at UCSD are trying to make peeing in space a more pleasant experience -- OK, so maybe make peeing in space less unpleasant.

“Right before our presentation to NASA, several people came up to us said ‘Wow, that looks like a pee machine!’ Well, that’s exactly what it is,” said Timothy Havard, a mechanical engineering undergraduate and leader of the microgravity team at UC San Diego. 

The students are taking part in Microgravity University, a competitive NASA program administered by the Johnson Space Center in Houston. As part of their project, the team performed research in an ultralow gravity environment created when an airplane made dramatic rises and drops in altitude. Wait -- they weren't peeing, they "mimicked the behaviors of streams of human urine in zero gravity."

The school's pee machine fires a column of water into a water-tight observation area that looks like a 25-gallon fish tank. The water traveled a lot further in spacelike conditions than they expected, with large bubbles flowing around the entire chamber.

The local student's team was one of 20 selected from 60 university's vying for a spot at Microgravity University.

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