Going for boeing
Boeing’s Starliner space capsule is supposed to start ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station in 2018. I’ve worked on the program for a little more than six years. My main job is to make sure the craft and the space suit we’re designing work well together. Sometimes that means I get to test it out for myself.
One of the first things I worked on was waste management— specifically, figuring out how astronauts will relieve themselves when they’re stuck in the suit, either on the launchpad or while waiting to reach orbit. Initially we tried out a system, worn like underwear, that can wick waste fluids from the body. We didn’t know if it could pump all the urine it captured into a bag and keep it there so it didn’t spill all over the capsule, or leave astronauts soggy.
My boss invited me to participate in the test. He knew I’d be excited, but I didn’t quite know what I was getting into. I had to pretend to pee in space. To do that, I put the underwear with the pump and the bag on underneath my regular clothes. Then I had to recline, as if I were seated in Starliner. So I’m sitting there in my work clothes—along with my boss, who was serving as the male test subject—and the engineer running the show was just like: “Go. Pee.” I said, “I can’t look at you and just start peeing!”
But I did. I actually had to do it three times—back to back. We had to make sure the system would hold up if astronauts were stuck in the capsule during a launch delay. I drank a lot of water that day.
At my job, we all do unusual things in the name of testing. They’re the kinds of things you wouldn’t do at any other job. It’s definitely fun.
Luckily, the pump worked and kept me clean and dry. But I had brought an extra pair of work clothes. Just in case.