Discovery Astronauts May Be Called On To Fix ISS Toilet
The crew of the upcoming STS-124 mission to the International
Space Station may soon have another objective added to their
roster: they may be called upon to repair the station's
The Associated Press reports the station's Russian-made
liquid-waste collection device has been on the fritz since Friday,
when a fan motor stopped working as one of the station's three
crewmembers was using it. The toilet has worked intermittently ever
"Like any home anywhere, the importance of having a working
bathroom is obvious," NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said.
This isn't the first time the toilet has broken, though this is
the longest the device has been inoperative, added Johnson Space
Center spokeswoman Nicole Cloutier. Russian officials are at a loss
as to why the seven-year-old device broke down, and the station's
crew has been unable to repair it so far.
Though, thankfully, the solid waste-collecting portion of the
toilet continues to function normally, the Expedition 17 crew has
had to get creative in the absence of a reliable... astro-urinal.
At first, the crew used the toilet on their Soyuz return capsule,
but it filled up quickly. Now, the crew is employing the
tried-and-true, albeit undignified, plastic baggie method.
Needless to say, the crew is anxiously awaiting the arrival of
the shuttle Discovery -- and, the shuttle's toilet -- at the ISS.
As ANN has reported, STS-124
is scheduled to blast off Saturday. The orbiter will dock at the
ISS on Monday... at which time its astronauts may also try their
hand at fixing the number one problem onboard the station.
Cloutier adds NASA is also considering taking the unusual step
of having some toilet parts flown over from Russia, to place inside
the orbiter on the pad.
There is a problem with that plan, however. Discovery's payload
capacity is already maxed out with the 32,000-pound second segment
of the Japanese Kibo laboratory. That segment is so big, in fact,
that the orbiter's robotic boom sensor system was taken off
Discovery to make room for the massive assembly.