The plumbing in our homes is responsible for a lot of the things that keep us healthy and comfortable – a network of copper pipe like this https://watkinspowis.co.uk/products/copper-pipe-fittings-and-press-systems/ is used to keep our homes warm and cosy, via the central heating system, and large drain pipes carry waste water away from the home so that we can stay healthy. In space, plumbing is even more important, but it has a lot more challenges to deal with than the plumbing systems in our homes do!
For nearly 25 years, the International space station (or the ISS as it is known for short) has been orbiting the Earth around once every 90 minutes, and onboard are a crew of astronauts that typically spend around six months onboard, living and working. That is a long time and there are many needs that human beings have when they spend this long in space. Of course, the plumbing plays an important part in keeping people not only healthy and comfortable, but also alive!
First of all, the temperatures in space are much more extreme than those on Earth, so the heating and cooling systems not only have to maintain a stable temperature that is comfortable for the humans who are there but it also has to be able to withstand the temperature extremes of space. Pipes are made from materials like titanium and are then coated in heat proof Teflon to give them extra strength and resistance to the extreme conditions of space.
Humans also need fresh clean water for drinking and washing, and spending so long in space they need to be able to access the water and have a continual supply of it. Of course washing your body on the ISS is something that has to be done without the help of the gravity that we have here on Earth, so astronauts will have a type of soap that doesn’t need to be rinsed, mixed with water, and this is all then dried from them with air – it is certainly not a luxurious bath!
Clothes cannot be cleaned in space because the amount of water required for this is simply too much – so astronauts will wear the same clothes until they are dirty, then they are ejected from the station into space where they then burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere!