When it comes to space travel, everything must be carefully planned, including bodily functions such as peeing. But how do astronauts handle this need during the long hours of waiting before a rocket launch? The answer lies in the Urine Collection Device (UCD), a crucial piece of hardware used by astronauts during spaceflight to collect and contain urine.
What is a UCD?
The UCD is a simple yet effective device that consists of a storage bag, adapter tubing, and disconnect hardware for both male and female adapters. Each UCD bag can store approximately one quart of urine, which is either disposed of in the spacecraft waste management system or returned to Earth for further research. UCDs are also used outside the spacecraft during Extravehicular Activity (EVA) operations.
The UCD has been used in various space missions, including the Apollo and Space Shuttle missions, as well as onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The UCD was used in every Apollo mission, where astronauts had to wear a Maximum Absorbency Garment (MAG) with a built-in UCD during takeoff, landing, and extra-vehicular activities. On the ISS, UCDs are used for both routine and contingency operations, as the spacecraft’s waste management system cannot handle large volumes of urine.
The UCD has been the subject of numerous experiments and investigations; for example, the Clinical Biochemistry experiment (AP004) collected urine samples from crew members during Skylab missions to study the effects of spaceflight on biochemical parameters.
The Endocrine, Electrolyte, and Fluid Volume Changes Associated with Apollo Missions (AP008) collected urine samples from Apollo astronauts to investigate the impact of microgravity on the endocrine system.
The Renal Stone Risk During Space Flight: Assessment and Countermeasure Validation (96-E057 and DSO 633) aimed to assess the risk of kidney stones during spaceflight and develop countermeasures to prevent them.
The Urine Collection Device experiment (DTO 690) tested the UCD’s performance in microgravity, while the Joint U.S./Russian Investigations: Metabolic Investigations (DSO 202) studied the metabolic changes that occur during spaceflight.
In terms of space missions, the UCD has been used in various historic events, including the first moon landing during the Apollo 11 mission, the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, and the final Apollo mission, Apollo 17. It was also used in Space Shuttle missions, such as STS-47, which included the first Japanese astronaut to fly in space, and STS-107, which tragically ended in the loss of the Columbia spacecraft and its crew.
Astronauts used the UCD in Apollo 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, as well as the Space Shuttle missions STS-47, STS-55, and STS-107. It has also been used during International Space Station expeditions such as Expedition 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13, and 14.
When you gotta go, you gotta go!
The UCD is a crucial piece of hardware used by astronauts during spaceflight to collect and contain urine. It has been used in various space missions, and it has been the subject of numerous experiments and investigations. With the UCD, astronauts can focus on their mission without worrying about their bodily functions, even during the long hours of waiting before a rocket launch.