Early astronauts used roll-on cuffs to collect their urine. I remember hearing once that these cuffs were available in 3 sizes, but the NASA had to change the names of the sizes because astronauts were reluctant to choose the "small" size. However, I can't find a source for this factoid. Is the factoid indeed true? What were the names of the cuff sizes?


There doesn't seem to have been 3 sizes, but according to A Review of Spacecraft Waste-Management Systems, NASA TM X-1851, Gemini urination devices came in 3 stages.

  1. The first two manned Gemini flights used an inflatable cuff.

    On Gemini missions III and IV (Gemini missions I and II were unmanned), the urination system consisted of two units: an in-suit unit for use prior to launch and a unit for the inflight disposal of urine. [...] The unit for the inflight disposal of urine (fig. 4) consisted of a receiver-line assembly (fig. 5) which had an inflatable cuff to collect the voided urine, an extendable urine-bellows assembly (fig. 6) capable of storing 800 cc of urine, a water-management panel, and a urine overboard-dump system.

    [...] During the flight, however, the crewman had difficulty in manipulating the bellows (that is, synchronizing the bellows-extension rate and the urine rate), and the assistance of the other crewman was required. Back pressure frequently occurred, which resulted in fluid backup from the receiver. In addition, air leakage occurred in the system around the penis.

    figure 5

  2. The system was then redesigned with a roll-on cuff:

    The operational difficulties encountered by the crewmen on the previously discussed flights resulted in the redesign of the waste-management system. The new system was designed to specified mechanical requirements and afforded maximum ease of operation. The redesigned spacecraft waste-management system (fig. 7) was used satisfactorily on Gemini missions V to XII.

    With the redesigned system, as with the previously discussed systems, the in-suit bag was used during the preflight phase. During the flight, the voided urine was collected by means of a roll-on cuff receiver (fig. 8).

    figure 8

  3. Two missions had a special collection device specifically needed to collect samples for experiments. Its picture has a clearly-labelled "roll-on cuff".

    On Gemini missions VII and IX, a chemical urine-volume measuring subsystem (CUVMS) was added to the existing spacecraft waste-management system to collect samples for experiments which were designed to assess the effects of space flight on metabolism (fig. 9).

    figure 10

Gemini Midprogram Conference claims that the CUVMS was designed with a larger size:

On Gemini VII, a chemical urine-volume-measuring system was used to support medical experiments requiring urine sampling. Although this system was similar to the Gemini V system, the increased size and complexity made its use more difficult, and some urine leakage occurred.

This same source confirms that the cuffs were made of latex, which can stretch to whatever size is needed.


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