Even NASA Deals With Crappy Infrastructure

Considering that the Space Shuttle Discovery weighs 4.5 million pounds at lift off and employs 2 solid rocket boosters, 3 main engines and 2 orbital thrusters, it’s insane to imagine that it was held back by a break in a 24-inch water line.

A water pipeline broke near the Kennedy Space Center launch complex on September 8th, closing the facility’s visitor center and delaying a planned “rollover”–the move of space shuttle Discovery from its hanger to the building where it is to be be prepared for its November 1st mission to the International Space Station.

NASA Webcam photos of the water main break via

The gushing pipeline break left the Kennedy Space Center without potable water or working restrooms, so non-essential personnel got the day off while tourists headed to the visitor center were turned away. A quick fix ensued and the Center reopened in the afternoon after water was restored to all locations except for one administrative building. The Visitor Center reopened the following day.

Hope they had a pallet or two of astronaut water around! Why, one can’t even have Tang without water!

So now, you too can enjoy the same inconveniences that the astronauts enjoy! Water main breaks occur, on average, 700 times every day in the US and Canada. (Also, see our CRAPPY INFRASTRUCTURE rss news feed below for “breaking” news around the clock.)

Remember what happened with Tang

If you were living in America during the sixties, you know what I’m talking about. Tang. That nasty-tasting, gritty-grainy pseudo-orange powdered breakfast beverage from Kraft that was a commercial flop until it swept the country after it’s endorsement by NASA. It rocketed to success with the Gemini flights in 1965, followed by many years of “spacey” advertising tie-ins, like this magazine ad (via

This 1984 TV commercial chirps,  ♪♫”Wake up your day the astronaut’s way”♪ …


Fast forward to last month, and observe the astronauts on the International Space Station toasting the successful testing of the wastewater recycling system with a drink of recycled urine water.

Hey, toilet-to-tap proponents, uh, I mean, “Groundwater Replenishment” supporters, couldn’t this work again? I mean, if astronauts could help Kraft sell that orange gag-in-a-glass, why not recycled water? Lightning could strike twice! If it’s good enough for the astronauts, it’s good enough for your family! ♫ ♪”Hydrate your day the astronaut’s way…” ♪

This photo (and story) from

Attention Conspiracy Theorists: NASA Water Recycling

Ordinarily, I’d post this photo of Vietnamese bottled water “purified by NASA’s award-winning technology” strictly for our amusement. (from the Picasa Web Album Hoi An, Vietnam by Mark)

But it reminds us of something we read on Engadget in the summer of 2007:

NASA drops $19m on Russian toilets
for American asstronauts [sic]

Super-good pun headline notwithstanding, our radar is up. NASA…millions of dollars…Russians…mysterious bottled water in a deprived country with scant government oversight of foodstuffs… Coincidence? Judge for yourself, but I am adjusting my tinfoil chapeau.

The July, 2007 Engadget story notes:

So apparently NASA has agreed to purchase toilet technology from the Russian company RSC Energia for the tidy sum of $19 million, to be delivered to the ISS in 2008 in preparation for a crew upsizing from three to six members. The previous system required that urine tanks be transferred to cargo ships and burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere, but the new toilets operate like a waste treatment center on Earth, collecting and reconstituting urine as drinking water — an unpleasant concept for a number of our readers, but a welcome relief for thirsty astronauts. The toilets are similar to normal models, though they employ leg restraints and thigh bars to hold the “user” in place, and high-powered fans to suck, um… waste into the commode. The system will be installed on the American side of the station, while the Russian-side will remain as is, resulting in extremely long lines to use the “good” bathroom.