When Mehrdad Mahdjoubi was in college, he landed an internship at Nasa's Johnson Space Center working in the Mars programme. Those in the space industry are deadset on sending humans to colonise Mars, and the notion has taken on an epic, even romanticised aura.

But what people do not realise is that life on Mars, especially for those early colonists, cannot possibly equal the lifestyle humans have on Earth, given the lack of infrastructure.

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“The whole notion about going to space is attractive,” Mahdjoubi said. “But if they tell you, you'd have to wear a diaper and you could never take a shower again, you would think twice.”


Therefore, Nasa works with industrial designers such as Mahdjoubi in a variety of ways to help create human-friendlier environments that take into account the total lack of resources in space, or on Mars.

They don't take showers on the space station, exactly – astronauts sort of wipe themselves off with a soap-like substance. One problem that engineers were able to solve is how to recycle every drop of water. Americans go all-in, too. Not only do they recycle so-called grey water used on washing up, they even turn their urine into drinkable water.

 

To do this, the designers for Nasa created a special high powered filter. It removes any stray particles, as well as bacteria or other dangerous things, and returns just potable water.

When Mahdjoubi left US space agency Nasa and moved back to his home country in Sweden, his time at Nasa inspired him to create his own version of that filter, and build it into a shower for earthlings. His design uses far less water than a typical shower, while maintaining its heat and water pressure.

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He has since launched a company called Orbital Systems to manufacture the shower and sell it worldwide.

Instead of a stream of water going down the drain, this shower constantly and instantly recirculates a fixed amount of water, typically five to 10 litres, filtering it as it goes. It saves up to 90 per cent of the water of a typical shower, Mahdjoubi says, and it tracks such statistics for homeowners with an app.

The shower, which is more than a shower head but is a whole kit-and-caboodle shower, currently costs US$2,500 and is usually installed during new construction or a bathroom remodel.

 

We get a lot of basic reactions, like 'eww, is the water clean? What if you pee in the water?’
Mehrdad Mahdjoub

But as Mahdjoubi grows the company worldwide, he hopes to bring costs down to US$700- US$1,000 per unit, he says, and to make it affordable enough to sell in some of the water-starved developing nations.

 

“We get a lot of basic reactions, like 'eww, is the water clean? What if you pee in the water?'" he laughs (to which I pointed out that this is a question that, as an adult woman, never occurred to me to ask). The answer is the same, regardless. “We sterilise water.”

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Orbital Systems has won an armload of awards for its design and has been certified by the Space Foundation as being a business built on space technology.

Plus, as a hot start-up in Sweden, Mahdjoubi attracted the backing of two of the country's most famous tech moguls-turned-investors: first, Skype founder Niklas Zennström, who became a seed investor and mentor. Zennström sold Skype twice, first to eBay in 2005 for US$2.6 billion. He and others bought it back from eBay and sold it again to Microsoft for US$8.5 billion, and now runs VC firm Atomico. The other big early investor is Peter Carlsson, a former Tesla executive.

 

Orbital has raised US$35 million so far.

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This article originally appeared on Business Insider.