Sky watchers were treated to a startling sight as the space shuttle Discovery crossed the night sky earlier this week. A comet-like plume of light suddenly began streaming from the space shuttle, prompting observers to speculate on its cause.
Unexplained flares emanating from a space shuttle is definitely something to worry about, but NASA had reassuring news. The shuttle was not malfunctioning, it was merely jettisoning an unusually large amount - nearly 70 kg or 150 lbs - of urine and waste water in preparation for landing. NASA added that space dumps are not uncommon sights among Earthbound observers because waste water freezes into clouds of ice droplets when ejected into space.
Why such a huge amount of waste on this trip? According to NASA, waste water dumps were not allowed during the shuttle’s 10-day visit to the International Space Station because they might have contaminated a new external platform on the station that is used for science experiments.
(Thanks to Stonehead )