A broken toilet on SpaceX capsule means astronauts will return to Earth in diapers


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The Crew Dragon space capsule astronauts, from front left, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.

John Raoux/AP


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John Raoux/AP


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The SpaceX capsule is currently scheduled to undock from the International Space Station on Monday afternoon and return Monday night, although all of that is dependent on the weather. All in all, the four crew members could spend up to 20 hours in the capsule, from the time the hatches are closed until they open again on Earth.

In this weekend’s press conference, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur confirmed that the toilets on board Dragon Endeavor are broken. «Of course that’s sub-optimal, but we’re prepared to manage,» she said with a smile. «Space flight is full of lots of little challenges, this is just one more that we’ll encounter and take care of in our mission.»


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This is not the first toilet issue on a SpaceX Dragon capsule. An alarm went off on SpaceX’s all-tourist flight earlier this year, signaling a problem with the onboard waste management system. Bill Gerstenmaier, a vice president at SpaceX, later said in a press conference that the spacecraft’s urine storage system had become disconnected in flight, allowing pooled urine to enter a fan system. It didn’t cause any major problems on that flight.

A similar problem was then found on Crew-2’s capsule, which is why it has been taken offline for this return journey home. NASA and SpaceX engineers say they did extensive tests to make sure that the urine leak from April, when the crew was last in the Dragon capsule, would not have harmed the spacecraft over time.

Getting ready to come home and these last few nights of aurora viewing from @Space_Station have felt like a gift. Hopefully some of you are enjoying the view from the other side too! pic.twitter.com/bUKGNi180J

— Megan McArthur (@Astro_Megan) November 6, 2021

A new SpaceX mission, Crew-3, is set to launch no earlier than Wednesday to continue the work of Crew-2. Gerstenmaier, who was a longtime NASA engineer before joining SpaceX, says that the toilet problem has been fixed for the upcoming launch.

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