My name is NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. I am currently living aboard the International Space Station, twenty-seven days into my one-year mission in space. The “Year in Space” is a joint program between NASA and The Russian Federal Space Agency to test how the human body and mind react and adapt to the harsh environment of space over extended periods of time. The data we collect over the next twelve months will be critical as NASA and Roscosmos prepare for human journeys deeper and deeper into our solar system.
I am immensely honored to be a part of this landmark mission, but please stop making me drink my own piss.
I know that it would be almost logistically impossible to blast enough clean water into space, let alone store it aboard our orbiting laboratory. I know that if mankind is ever going to explore the deepest reaches of the cosmos, urine filtration systems like the one that we're currently using aboard the ISS will be an absolute necessity. And I know that our waste recycling system is a technological marvel. I know that the water it produces is supposed to be cleaner than stuff coming out of my faucet back home. But this just... sucks.
I'm typically not a big complainer, but I feel like I've really busted my ass for this space program. I've been with NASA for over twenty years and served ten years in the United States Navy before that. I’ve spent thousands of hours honing my body and mind so that they might withstand the rigors of space travel. I’ve transformed myself into a near perfect human specimen. I possess a combination of supreme physical conditioning and astounding intellect found almost nowhere else in the population. I’ve agreed to risk my life by climbing aboard what is basically a moderately controlled explosion and hurtling myself into the merciless black void of space. And how am I rewarded? With an ice cold glass of my own pee-pee.
The worst part is that I have to literally take the piss out of the toilet and carry it in a bag through the space station to the filter. Think about it. In the middle of one of mankind's greatest technological achievement, a man with Bruce Wayne-levels of intelligence and athleticism is pushing a big bag of pee and poo through the air so that he can drink and bathe.
I know I should try not to think about, but it's hard when you know how the sausage gets made. I know because I make the sausage.
Can't we at least get some big robotic transfer the piss bag? Why do I have to transfer the piss bag?
I'm sorry, but it just doesn't make any sense to me. Part of the reason I'm up here is so we can try to figure out ways to combat zero-gravity's negative effects on the human body like muscle atrophy and loss of bone density. Here's one idea: stop feeding me my own piss. But, hey. What do I know, right? I'm just some “fly boy” who has agreed to spend a year of his life as a cosmic guinea pig for the betterment of our entire species.
The other big part of this mission is so we can see if floating around in a tiny tin can with the same six people for a year will make you lose your goddamn marbles. I might go crazy. That's fine. I signed up for that. I just don't want to be the crazy guy who is also drinking his own piss. Honestly, it's a little fucked up that you guys are planting the “piss-drinking” seed in a mind that you know will be pushed to the brink of sanity, because if I snap, it's pretty much a guarantee that I'm going to spend the the rest of mission pants-less and using zero gravity to piss straight into my own mouth.
I knew that my “Year in Space” wouldn’t come without sacrifice. I’ve got two girls back down there on that pale blue dot and if I'm being honest, the hardest part of this entire mission is missing out on a year of them growing up. I wish I could be there to take them to soccer practice or help with their homework. But I can't. I'm thousands of miles away. Gulping my own piss. That last part that really fucking stings.
It's not all bad, though. Sometimes, between all the tests and data collection and station maintenance, I slip down to the observation took take in the view. You know, the world doesn't look so big from up here. And people don't look so different. We all kinda look like neighbors. I can't see countries. Or race. Or creed. Or wealth. All I can see is the one place that we all call home. In the middle of seemingly infinite emptiness, all I can see is life. For a moment, the mission slips away and I hover in silent awe of Earth's utter beauty. But then I remember that I've been sipping on my piss the entire time and it kinda takes me out of it.
Oh God! I just remembered! The “Twin Study!” While I’m in space, NASA will be conducting a number of comparative genetic studies on my twin brother, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly. What are the “controls” in this experiment? Is Mark drinking his own piss too? Is piss one of the controls? For Christ’s sake, leave the man alone! You’re making the man drink his own piss ON EARTH?! If I must, I can suffer the indignity of it. I have broken free of gravity’s invisible shackles. I have blasted through to the other side of the sky on the back of a steed of flame. I float in the heavens, staring down at Earth, a man-made God.
Mark once lived amongst the stars, but he has fallen. He is a mortal now. He has a modest new-development home outside of Houston. He cuts the lawn. He grouts the tub. He makes chit chat with the parents of his children's friends. He stands in his backyard, stares up at the night sky, and can't understand how he can have come home, but still feel so far away. The thought that on top of all that, he has to drink own piss makes me want to fucking cry.
Please stop making me drink my own piss. Please stop making Mark drink his own piss. We're heroes. Heroes don't drink their pee pee.