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NASA Space

Main Toilet On ISS Craps Out 219

Posted by kdawson
from the series-of-tubes dept.
The Narrative Fallacy writes "NASA has spent years getting ready for a crowd in space — adding additional sleeping quarters, learning how to recycle liquid waste into drinking water, and installing a second bathroom last year. But now the main toilet has broken down on the International Space Station while a record 13 astronauts are on board. For now Mission Control has advised the astronauts to hang an 'out of service' sign on the toilet as it may take days to repair. In the meantime, Endeavour's seven astronauts will be restricted to the shuttle bathroom. Last year a Russian cosmonaut complained that he was no longer allowed to use the US toilet because of billing and cost issues. Now the six space ISS residents will have to get in line to use the back-up toilet in the Russian part of the station. The pump separator on the malfunctioning toilet has apparently flooded, and ESA astronaut Frank De Winne is the guy tasked with putting his plumbing skills to work on short notice. 'We don't yet know the extent of the problem,' says flight director Brian Smith, adding that the toilet troubles were 'not going to be an issue' for now."
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Main Toilet On ISS Craps Out

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  • Shuttle Toilet (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:48AM (#28753229)
    They can't use the shuttle toilet that much, since it has to dump waste water overboard periodically. They can't do this while docked.
  • Crew Fix. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Usually Unlucky (1598523) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:01AM (#28753293)
    They have 13 people up there with strong engineering and scientific backgrounds, shouldn't one of them be able to fix it. Toilet repair should be mandatory for the Russian crew members from now on, at least as they are still using the faulty Soviet MIR surplus toilets.
  • by Amiralul (1164423) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:06AM (#28753323) Homepage
    Season 2, Episode 22, "The Classified Materials Turbulence".
  • Re:oops (Score:5, Informative)

    by Imagix (695350) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:07AM (#28753329)
    Or the method by which the main character was killed in Dead Like Me.
  • Re:fed up... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mercano (826132) <mercano@gma i l . c om> on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:12AM (#28753347)
    Well, in the Apollo days, urine was just dumped overboard. The service module's fuel cells made more then enough water as a byproduct of electrical production. Pretty much the same setup for the shuttle; in fact, the shuttle will typically offload extra water onto the station before departing. The station uses solar panels for electricity. Good news: no need to haul up liquid hydrogen and oxygen to supply electrical power. Bad news: no more free water source, especially once we discontinue the shuttle. Orion, Soyuz, Progress, ATV, and even SpaceX's Dragon all use solar power. This means we now need reclaim as much water from urine, rather then just dumping it, hence the toilet all of the sudden becomes a much more complex piece of equipment.
  • by Usually Unlucky (1598523) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:16AM (#28753361)
    "The main toilet, a multi-million-dollar Russian-built unit, was flown up and installed on the US side of the space station last year." -BBC
  • by underqualified (1318035) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:33AM (#28753437)
    big bang theory? season 2? yeah. that's it.
  • This one implies that the Russians were being discriminated against (Last year a Russian cosmonaut complained that he was no longer allowed to use the US toilet), but the linked summary says "Padalka, who will be the station's next commander, says the arguments date back to 2003, when Russia started charging other space agencies for the resources used by their astronauts" and also that it was only a *suggestion* that they stick to their own plumbing.

  • Re:fed up... (Score:4, Informative)

    by vlm (69642) on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:43AM (#28754683)

    Furthermore, is the product of fuel cells not pure water, meaning completely free of any kinds of minerals? Drinking that as it is isn't particularly healthy either.

    Pure urban legend that distilled water is bad for you. It required the assumption that all tap water is the same, however each tap water source is wildly different.

    Also, not all tap water is safe to drink, even in the "first world". I live very near a subcontinental divide, and on the east side which drains into the great lakes, I can drink slightly filtered lake water, you know, the lake that we dump untreated sewage into each time it rains and med waste washes ashore every time the wind blows in from the lake, and which very recently killed hundreds due to a cryptosporidium outbreak, or on the west side of the divide which drains into the mighty mississip, ultra-deep wells which are actually pretty healthy except for the off the charts radium level. Or there are the shallow wells in rural areas with off the charts fertilizer and insecticide levels. But somehow, those three options are supposed to be safer than purified distilled H2O.

  • Re:fed up... (Score:5, Informative)

    by PIBM (588930) on Monday July 20, 2009 @07:21AM (#28754879) Homepage

    Feeling lucky on google with cryptosporidium outbreak:

    in 1993 .... This abnormal condition at the plant lasted from March 23 through April 8, after which, the plant was shut down. Over the span of approximately two weeks, 403,000 of an estimated 1.61 million residents in the Milwaukee area (of which 880,000 were served by the malfunctioning treatment plant) became ill with the stomach cramps, fever, diarrhea and dehydration caused by the pathogen. Over 100 deaths were attributed to this outbreak,

  • Re:fed up... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @08:02AM (#28755207)

    From tfa: The main toilet, a multi-million-dollar Russian-built unit, was flown up and installed on the US side of the space station last year.

  • Re:fed up... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Monday July 20, 2009 @09:47AM (#28756261) Homepage

    the US space program back in the early days of the shuttle spent several million dollars developing a ballpoint pen that would work reliably in microgravity. The Soviets used a pencil.

    First off, it was a private US company that developed the pressurized ballpoint pen. They donated a few samples to NASA long before the space shuttle flew just so they could call it the "space pen". The US space program never paid a penny for it.

    Secondly, what do you think happens when you write with a pencil in free fall? Where does all of that highly conductive graphite dust go? What about a broken tip? Does it know what could happen when it works its way into all those control panels full of exposed electrical switches? In an atmosphere which was still over 60% oxygen?

    It's not good. What the Soviets used was a _grease_ pencil, and even they switched to the Fisher Space Pen when it became available.

  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @09:31AM (#28781527)

    Just because "someone" has always done it this way doesn't make it right.

    Actually, when it comes to language, and when "someone" really is "virtually everyone", then yes, that's EXACTLY what makes it right . . .

"No job too big; no fee too big!" -- Dr. Peter Venkman, "Ghost-busters"

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