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Fleeting Wonders: NASA Says Astropoop Turns Into Shooting Stars

Image via NASA

Until March 2016, when you wish upon a star, you may actually be wishing on Scott Kelly’s feces.

NASA has released a new infographic with handy facts about astronaut Scott Kelly’s experience during the ongoing Expedition 43, his year-long International Space Station mission. The image answers some of the most basic facts about how an astronaut’s life functions while they are holed up in a tiny space station for a whole year.

Among tidbits about Kelly’s radiation exposure and exercise regimens is the little fact that the astronaut will produce around 180 pounds of feces during his trip. NASA says that the waste will burn up in the atmosphere, and to those of us on the ground, it will look like shooting stars. 

A toilet on the International Space Station. (Image: NASA/Public Domain)

The need to go to the bathroom in space presents a fascinating conundrum. Due to the lack of gravity, waste doesn’t flee from the body like it does here on Earth. Instead, it needs to be manually removed, or vacuumed away via special toilets. In fact, according to a great article on the subject of astronaut bathroom habits on Space.com, astronauts have to go through special training to make sure they properly sit on the million-dollar space toilets. In modern space travel, urine is recycled for drinking water, but solid waste is eventually jettisoned towards Earth, to burn up in the atmosphere.

By the end of Expedition 43, Kelly and his space buddy, Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, will become the first men to spend a full year hanging out in the weightless void of space. Thanks to hundreds of tests being performed by and on the astronauts, we will get to see just what extended space travel does to the human body. But before that, down on Earth, a lucky few may get a glimpse of one of Kelly’s very special comets streaking across the sky.

Every day, we track down a fleeting wonder—something amazing that’s only happening right now. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your temporary miracles to cara@atlasobscura.com.