A NASA Astronaut Who Spent 665 Days Circling The Planet Reveals The Misery Of Going To The Bathroom In Space

NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson with both feet on the ground in New York, May 22, 2018. Hilary Brueck/Business Insider 

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has logged a whopping 665 days in space.

That's an American record, and it's more time in space than just about anyone else on Earth can claim (aside from seven Russian cosmonauts.) 

She's hit her "radiation limit" she says, and won't be headed back to the International Space Station again.

While it's a sad realization for Whitson, who loves a good gravity-free float, there's one thing she won't miss about living on the International Space Station: the bathroom.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson sometimes has tears in her eyes when she says she won’t be going in to space again.

The former International Space Station boss has logged a whopping 665 floating days in space, more than any other American.

It’s clear from her beaming smile and boisterous, frequent laughs that she loved nearly every aspect of the out-of-this-world job, from installing battery parts on the station's solar panels to sampling mysterious space microbes

"To be a part of exploration in that very direct way," she told Business Insider, is "incredibly satisfying and gratifying." 

But there’s one aspect of life in space that Whitson says she won’t miss at all: the toilet.

"The space station is not really a hotel yet," she said Tuesday, her feet firmly planted on the ground inside a five-star (and flush-toilet equipped) hotel in New York.

"I would call it a camping trip." 

The toilet on the ISS is not quite as bad as the Maximum Absorbency Garment diapers that astronauts sometimes had to use on missions like the Apollo moon trips. But the $19,000 Russian-made toilet (seen here) isn't exactly first class, either.  

This toilet was delivered to the International Space Station aboard space shuttle Endeavour on the STS-126 mission in 2008. The Russian-built system cost around $19,000 and can turn crew member urine into potable water.NASA

"Urinating's relatively easy," Whitson says. 

For that, astronauts use a funnel equipped with a fan that suctions their pee away, so it doesn't float off. (See the yellow cone on the top right side of this toilet photo? That's where the urine goes.) Then it takes about eight days for the liquid to become drinking water again for the astronauts. 

But Whitson says that if you have to do more than just urinate, things aren't so simple.

"Number two... is more challenging because you're trying to hit a pretty small target," she said. 

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