A leaky toilet in outer space

Companies and spaceships can not plumber from orbit. If the toilet suddenly malfunctions in the aircraft, it will be a severe challenge for the astronauts to handle the smell of human excrements while trying to get to the desired destination. Therefore, before SpaceX can launch its Inspiration4 vehicle to the international space station, toilet issues must be solved. It is known that the Crew Dragon, the Inspiration4’s passenger capsule, had some issues with its toilet during the three-day mission the four civilians were in outer space.

The nature of the toilet problem, though, seemed to be hidden by the officials. Mission managers chose not to answer when pressed for details. SpaceX didn’t respond to questions for comment. Scott Poteet, the mission’s director on Earth, said in a news conference with reporters only that there were “issues” with the capsule’s waste management system, without any further detail.

The Crew Dragon is larger than a minivan, yet smaller than a studio apartment. Therefore, it does not have a proper “washroom”. There is a space on the ceiling of the vehicle where the crew can relieve their human needs. The suction is created with an internal fan which ensures the waste goes the right way. Some officials vaguely say that there were issues with the fan, but no more in-depth. The secret holds no more, however. A tube that carries urine into a tank broke loose during the Inspiration4 mission and leaked into the fan, which sprayed the urine in an enclosed area beneath Crew Dragon’s floor, Bill Gerstenmaier, a SpaceX official who once supervised human spaceflight for NASA, told reporters on Monday night. He said the four passengers didn’t notice anything was wrong during the mission, however.

“We didn’t really even notice it, the crew didn’t even notice it, until we got back,” Mr. Gerstenmaier said. “When we got the vehicle back, we looked under the floor and saw the fact that there was contamination underneath the floor of Inspiration4.”

SpaceX has conducted a fix on the toilet system before the mission to the International Space Station on October 31st. However, there already was an Inspiration4 spacecraft docked on the Space Station, and experts suspected the same issue. In fact, these officials were correct. There were indeed signs of contamination detected on the spacecraft. SpaceX officials would like to take this as a learning opportunity to improve their vehicles in the future.


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