A broken toilet can be a nightmare scenario anywhere, but when it happens in space, it’s a situation no one wants to be in.
Four astronauts returning home from the International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s 13-foot-wide capsule this month will not have access to a toilet for the duration of the trip. Rather, they will have to rely on relief “underwear” according to NASA.
The problem with the toilet was identified last month on another of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules they flew to the ISS in April where it is currently docked.
Astronauts are counting on a short return to Earth to avoid any uncomfortable incidents.
Previous crewed flights on SpaceX ships took between six and nine hours to return to Earth from the ISS.
Any unfortunate urine spill could also have corroded the ship’s aluminum structure in space.
SpaceX said it was carrying out a series of ground tests to make sure this was not the case and that the Crew Dragon would hold out and bring the astronauts home safely.
The toilet problems of the company owned by Elon Musk appear to be an ongoing saga. At this point, all three spacecraft operated by SpaceX appear to be facing problems with leaking their toilets on board.
It all started with SpaceX’s first fully civilian crew, Inspiration4, who discovered a problem with the toilet during their three-day space mission in September.
A tube used to deliver urine to a storage tank peeled off and let mess flow onto a ventilator used to remove waste from the human body. The ventilator then sprayed urine under the floor of the capsule.
The crew which included the company’s first group of space tourists had to fix the faulty toilets when they sounded an alarm.
One of the passengers, billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman previously said Initiated that the Crew Dragon spaceship’s lavatory would have “a hell of a view” because it was on top of the plane.
But so far the toilet has only caused problems for the company and the passengers.
Crew Dragon’s onboard waste management system consists of a wall-mounted device with suction to collect and store expelled human waste.
Without gravity in space, garbage can go in all directions. To solve this problem, space toilets have fans inside, which are used to create suction to extract waste from the human body and store it.
Inspiration4 aimed to launch a new era in space tourism with the mission of sending three paying customers to the ISS aboard a Crew Dragon capsule next year.
This will be SpaceX’s third operational mission for NASA and only its fifth passenger flight overall.
As the company has recognized the problems with its sanitation system and works to fix it, space tourists will think twice before taking a flight without a working toilet.
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