Astronauts deal with flooded toilet in orbit

Jul 19, 2009 By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
This image provided by NASA shows the underside of the crew cabin near the nose cap of the Space Shuttle Endeavour taken by an Expedition 20 crewmember during a survey of the approaching vehicle prior to docking with the International Space Station Friday July 17, 2009. Endeavour crew performed a back-flip for the rendezvous pitch maneuver. Mission Control said Saturday Endeavour looks to be in fine shape for re-entry at the end of the month. Areas where the heat tiles were dinged during Wednesday's launch can be seen in this image. (AP Photo/NASA)

(AP) -- The bathroom lines at the already crowded space shuttle and space station complex got a lot longer Sunday because of a flooded toilet. One of two commodes aboard the international space station malfunctioned, right in the middle of complicated robotic work being conducted by the two crews. The pump separator apparently flooded.

Mission Control advised the astronauts to hang an "out of service" sign on the until it could be fixed. In the meantime, the six space station residents had to get in line to use their one good toilet. And Endeavour's seven astronauts were restricted to the shuttle bathroom.

There have never been so many people - 13 - together in space. The toilet repair work fell to Belgian Frank De Winne, who had to don goggles, gloves and a mask.

Read also: Space station astronauts fix broken toilet: NASA

Flight director Brian Smith declined to speculate whether overuse caused the toilet trouble.

"We don't yet know the extent of the problem," Smith told reporters. "It may turn out to be of no consequence at all. It could turn out to be significant. It's too early to tell right now."

Teams of specialists in Houston and Moscow hurriedly convened to discuss the problem. The Russian-built, multimillion-dollar toilet flew up on a shuttle last November.

Smith said there is no urgency to the bathroom situation, at least for now. But he said if the toilet remains out of action for several days, "then we'll readdress the situation and see what we have to do."

Going into this mission, NASA wanted at least four of Endeavour's crew to use the space station's bathrooms, so the shuttle tank would not fill up.

As long as Endeavour is docked to the space station, it cannot eject any waste water. The nozzle is located near the newly installed porch on the Japanese lab; the attach mechanisms for experiments could corrode if sprayed by water.

Two bathrooms ultimately are needed for a full station crew of six. Smith said he did not know how long six occupants could rely on a single toilet.

Both the shuttle and station are equipped with other ways for the astronauts to relieve themselves, Smith said, including Apollo-era urine collection bags.

Much of Sunday - the eve of the 40th anniversary of man's first moon landing - was spent using a pair of robot arms to move a large cargo carrier, loaded with batteries and spare parts, from the shuttle to the station. It was a relatively quiet day sandwiched between spacewalks.

The 13-by-8-foot platform holds an antenna, pump and engine for the station's rail car, all of which will be removed and secured to the space station during a spacewalk Monday. NASA wants to store as many big spare parts as possible at the space station, before shuttles stop flying at the end of next year.

Also on the carrier are six batteries that will be plugged into the station by spacewalking later in the week, replacing old batteries.

In all, five spacewalks are planned during Endeavour's 1 1/2-week space station visit.

As for the Apollo 11 anniversary, Smith noted that the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs contributed to today's . He observed that he wasn't born when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon July 20, 1969; neither were two of the 13 spacefarers.


On the Net:


©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA fuels space shuttle for 6th launch try

Jul 15, 2009

(AP) -- Hoping stormy skies clear in time, NASA fueled space shuttle Endeavour for a sixth launch attempt Wednesday, the eve of the 40th anniversary of the liftoff for the first moon landing.

Space shuttle blasts off after month's delay

Jul 15, 2009

(AP) -- After more than a month's delay, space shuttle Endeavour and seven astronauts thundered into orbit Wednesday on a flight to the international space station, hauling up a veranda for Japan's enormous ...

Recommended for you

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

2 hours ago

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

4 hours ago

( —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

Let's put a sailboat on Titan

7 hours ago

The large moons orbiting the gas giants in our solar system have been getting increasing attention in recent years. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only natural satellite known to house a thick atmosphere. ...

Image: Rosetta's Philae lander snaps a selfie

8 hours ago

Philae is awake… and taking pictures! This image, acquired last night with the lander's CIVA (Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer) instrument, shows the left and right solar panels of ESA's well-traveled ...

User comments : 6

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2009
That would be terrible, and for once I bet everyone on this site will agree.

Would it be possible (I have no clue about these kinds of things) to make some kind of pill that contained all the nutrients the body needs to reduce waste? So you wouldn't ever eat any solids, maybe something every now and then, so no obvious problems would occur.

Here's another random one, on top of that, if that were possible, and you completely stopped eating solids could you eliminate poo all together?

You have to admit it would be pretty handy in space.

I'm actually really curious about that. ha

1 / 5 (2) Jul 20, 2009
They could probably hold it for like a week without dien.
not rated yet Jul 20, 2009
The Big Bang Theory anyone ?
1 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2009
Wow! I bet there are stray turds floating around everywhere.
not rated yet Jul 20, 2009
So some space jockey gets up there and drops a 2 pound deuce? The same thing happens at my house. The trick is to flush BEFORE you start adding toilet paper. Perhaps some remedial training is needed for handling number 2 in 0 G.
not rated yet Jul 22, 2009
Soylent | Egnite | ghidon |

I don't know what rating any specific one of you guys gave AAZippo3 the SPAMMER high ratings but he has banned once already for spamming under another name.

The anonymizer Spam should have clued you in. His longest post has been two sentences plus a link for Spam.

Flag and he will go away. I was amazed that there IS some moderation going on here.


More news stories

Meteorites yield clues to Martian early atmosphere

( —Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published ...

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Researchers see hospitalization records as additional tool

Comparing hospitalization records with data reported to local boards of health presents a more accurate way to monitor how well communities track disease outbreaks, according to a paper published April 16 in the journal PLOS ON ...

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.