No toilet for returning SpaceX crew, stuck using diapers

This NASA, Astronauts photo shows Mark Vande Hei (left), Shane Kimbrough and AkihikoHoshide (right), posing with chile peppers from the International Space Station. It was taken on Friday, November 5, 2021. Credit: NASA via AP
Because of the broken toilet in their capsule, the astronauts who will leave the International Space Station Sunday will have to use diapers while they travel home.

Megan McArthur, a NASA astronaut, described Friday's situation as "suboptimal," but manageable. From Monday morning's scheduled splashdown, Megan McArthur and her three SpaceX crewmates will spend 20 hours inside their capsule.

She said that spaceflight presents many small challenges during a news conference held from orbit. "This is only one of many challenges we will face and address in our mission. We are not worried about it."

Mission managers met Friday to decide whether McArthur and her crew would be able to return home after a series of meetings. Then, they will launch their replacements. SpaceX's launch was already delayed by bad weather and an unnamed medical issue that involved one of its crew members.

SpaceX now targets liftoff Wednesday night at the earliest.

McArthur's French astronaut Thomas Pesquet will be returning with McArthur. He told reporters that the past six month have been very intense. The spacewalks were to upgrade the station’s power grid. They also encountered thruster firings from docked Russian vehicles, which sent the station into short spins.

The toilet leak was also a problem. They had to pull up panels from their SpaceX capsule, and discovered urine pools. SpaceX's September private flight was the first to notice the problem. A tube that had been left unglued dripped urine under the floorboards. SpaceX repaired the toilet in the capsule, but declared it unusable for the orbital one.

Engineers found that the capsule was structurally sound and safe to return home. NASA calls it absorbent "undergarments" that astronauts will need to use.

McArthur said that the astronauts were able to grow the first chile peppers from space, which was "a nice moral booster." The astronauts were able to taste their harvest and add pieces of green and red peppers into tacos.

She said, "They have a nice spice to them. A little bit of a burning sensation." "Some people found this more problematic than others."

McArthur, Pesquet and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough are also returning. Akihiko Hishide, a Japanese astronaut, is also returning. SpaceX sent them to the station on April 23. NASA wants to return them as soon as possible, as their capsule has been certified for maximum space travel of 210 days. Friday marks their 196th day in orbit.

After their departure, one American and two Russians will still be on the station. It would be nice if they arrived first, in order to share tips about living in spaceKimbrough stated that the last NASA astronaut will take over.

SpaceX crew launches next week; astronaut is on the mend

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