Science Daily has a curious short post about how a number of scientists are working on an innovative water treatment process for the urine of astronauts...
On the less glamorous side of space exploration, there's the more practical problem of waste — in particular, what to do with astronaut pee. But rather than ejecting it into space, scientists are developing a new technique that can turn this waste burden into a boon by converting it into fuel and much-needed drinking water. Their report, which could also inspire new ways to treat municipal wastewater, appears in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering
The post is curious because it seems very late in the day for scientists in the space exploration community to take the idea of recycling waste water seriously. The space age is mostly over. The astronaut is now more a relic than anything else. The question then is: Why did this very practical idea not occur to the scientists of the heyday (mid-60s to mid-70s) of human space travel? My guess: The former dominance of the ideology of nature as nothingness. This ideology has its roots in the 15th century, the moment of Europe's discovery of the New World, and it persisted without a challenge until the rise of the environmental movement in the 70s. Only in our time of growing ecological awareness does the practice of "ejecting [waste] it into space," space being the supreme form of nothingness, reveal itself as wasteful.
For us biological entities, there is nothing at all like nothingness.