Plumbing is a hugely important part of space flight and spending time outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. On Earth, the plumbing in our homes uses copper pipe https://watkinspowis.co.uk/products/copper-pipe-fittings-and-press-systems/ to heat our home and the plumbing on Earth relies on gravity to enable it to work.
When the first designers sat down to create the vehicles that would take humans outside of the Earth’s atmosphere they knew that this would not be the case, and they were going to have to design systems that were not reliant on gravity. They also realised how important plumbing in space is – as well as the spaceships themselves which need to provide water and also heating controls to astronauts to keep them safe in their environment, the space suits also needed plumbing to ensure that the astronaut inside it could safely work in the vacuum of space.
Another difficulty with plumbing in space is the extreme temperatures. On the moon the temperature can range from way above boiling in lunar daytime (around 120 degrees Celsius, to -170 degrees Celsius in the depths of a lunar night. So, space suits for the Apollo missions were designed using a series of pipes which circulated cooling water through them – sort of like a mini spaceship around the astronaut, keeping them in the conditions that their bodies were used to on Earth.
Then came more ambitious projects – Skylab and Mir led to the International Space Station, a place where astronauts would spend around half a year living and working. This really did mean that conditions needed to be suitable for people to spend that long there.
Fortunately, the engineers made changes and altered equipment that we take for granted on Earth to come up with a range of clever systems. The materials for the pipes for example are made of stronger materials that are able to withstand the extreme heat and cold temperatures and coated with materials like Teflon to keep them even more protected. Showers are not taken in the conventional way that we would on Earth, as without gravity water will just float around in droplets, therefore a pack of soap is mixed with water which the astronaut can use to wash with.