Water Filters
Tap water's bad press is mostly about three issues: the way it looks, the way it tastes and what's in it.

Water -- it tastes even better when it's (mostly) free of those annoying microorganisms.

Photo courtesy of CDC

Even though astronauts do their jobs miles away from Earth's surface, they still rely on basic necessities we may take for granted. Take clean water, for example. How does NASA ensure that the water astronauts drink is safe?

This question spurred the agency to create special water filters in the 1970s to make certain astronauts had clean water in space [source: Marconi]. Working with Umpqua Research Company in Oregon, NASA crafted filter cartridges that use iodine to clean water supplies from the shuttles.

The technology, called the Microbial Check Valve, has gained momentum in cleaning water for municipal water plants. It has paved the way for devising other ways to filter the resource for human consumption. Such filters become especially important in areas where chemicals have contaminated groundwater supplies.

In recent years, NASA has upped the ante with its water studies by creating units that can more efficiently recycle human waste such as urine into safe drinkable water for astronauts [source: Beasley]. Though the prospect of venturing to Mars seems light-years away, the potential of providing the space crew with the water it needs may not be.

For more details on NASA's inventions and other nifty resources, check out the next page.