Cape Canaveral: As NASA prepares to double the number of astronauts living aboard the International Space Station, nothing may do more for crew bonding than a machine being launched aboard the space shuttle Endeavour on Friday.
It's a water-recycling device that will process the crew's urine for communal consumption.
"We did blind taste tests of the water," said NASA's Bob Bagdigian, the system's lead engineer.
"Nobody had any strong objections. Other than a faint taste of iodine, it is just as refreshing as any other kind of water."
"I've got some in my fridge. It tastes fine to me."
Delivery of the $250 million wastewater recycling gear is among the primary goals of NASA's 124th shuttle mission, which is due to launch at 7:55 pm EST on Friday from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
Meteorologists predicted a 70 per cent chance the weather would be suitable for launch. If the shuttle lifts off on time, it would arrive at the space station on Sunday so astronauts could begin 11 to 12 days of home improvements.
In addition to the water recycler, Endeavour carries two small bedrooms, the station's first refrigerator, new exercise gear, and perhaps most important for a growing crew - a second toilet.
"With six people you really do need to have a two-bathroom house. It's a lot more convenient and a lot more efficient," said Endeavour astronaut Sandra Magnus, who will take over as a space station flight engineer from Greg Chamitoff.
Chamitoff has been aboard the outpost since the last shuttle flight in June.
NASA wants to make sure the water recycling system is working well before adding another three astronauts to the station's crew.