HOUSTON, May 21 (UPI) -- The International Space Station crew toasted NASA's U.S. scientists this week with a special drink -- water recycled from their own urine.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said that toast marked a milestone in the space program and specifically in the station's environmental and life support systems, which will begin supporting six-person crews at the end of May.
Expedition 19 Commander Gennady Padalka and Flight Engineers Mike Barratt and Koichi Wakata celebrated the operation of the station's new recycling system Wednesday with a toast broadcast on NASA TV.
"This has been the stuff of science fiction. Everybody's talked about recycling water in a closed loop system, but nobody's ever done it before. Here we are today with the first round of recycled water," Barratt said. "We're really happy for this day and for the team that put this together. This is the kind of technology that will get us to the moon and farther."
NASA said the system that processes urine into purified water will be a key technology required for sending humans on long duration missions to the moon and Mars.
Space station crews will monitor the purity of the recycled water with on-board equipment and periodically send samples back to Earth for testing.