Astronauts expected to return home after six-month ISS mission

By Jackie Wattles, CNN Business

(CNN) – Four astronauts are expected to return home on Monday evening aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, concluding their six-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

Their journey began shortly after 2 p.m. ET on Monday when the astronauts attached themselves to the Crew Dragon capsule, which has remained attached to the ISS since arriving with the crew in April. They will spend the rest of the day aboard the capsule as it maneuvers in orbit. The capsule is expected to land off the coast of Florida around 10:30 p.m. Monday.

Problems with the toilets aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule will leave astronauts without a bathroom option on their return trip. Instead, the crew will have to rely on “underwear” – essentially adult diapers.

SpaceX first discovered an issue with its spacecraft’s toilet in September while inspecting another Crew Dragon capsule. The company discovered that a tube used to deliver urine to a storage tank had peeled off and was causing a leak hidden under the floor of the capsule.

After discovering this problem, the four astronauts who make up SpaceX’s Crew-2 – Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency and Akihiko Hoshide of Japan – were asked to check if their Crew Dragon capsule had a similar problem . And he did.

In a press conference held remotely from the ISS on Friday, McArthur said the use of underwear rather than the toilet was “suboptimal.”

“But we are ready to manage,” she said. “Spaceflight is filled with many little challenges. It’s just one more we’ll encounter and deal with during our mission, so we don’t worry too much about it.”

DO THIS QUIZ: Your body in space

The spacecraft should still be able to fly safely, if not slightly less comfortable than before.

Kimbrough, McArthur, Pesquet, and Hoshide return to Earth before the next crew of astronauts can join the ISS to replace them. NASA and SpaceX hope to launch another mission later this week.

This next mission, called Crew-3, was scheduled to take off last weekend but was delayed – first by weather issues, then by a “minor medical issue” with one of the astronauts. NASA said Thursday it expects this medical issue to be resolved before liftoff later this week, and SpaceX and NASA officials are now focused on finding a good weather opportunity for the launch.

Monday’s splash comes after SpaceX CEO Elon Musk went wild on Twitter, this time make a sexual reference by going after Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. Wyden, like many Democratic senators, has advocated removing legal loopholes that allow billionaires like Musk to avoid paying regular taxes.

Wyden tweeted in favor of ‘billionaire income tax’ after Musk asked his followers on Twitter, asking him if he should sell 10% of his share of Tesla, which would incur a hefty tax bill. 58% of respondents voted “yes”. But, it should be noted, Musk has a multibillion dollar tax bill on future stock options.

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