Space Station Crew Awaits Orbital Plumbers

Space Station Crew Awaits Orbital Plumbers
The Expedition 17 station crew reviews the STS-124 timeline during a conference with U.S. planners. Inside the Destiny laboratory are (from left), commander Sergei Volkov and flight engineers Garrett Reisman and Oleg Kononenko.
(Image: © NASA TV.)

Astronautsliving aboard the International Space Station (ISS) need help from an orbitalplumber to fix their troublesome space commode.

The solitaryRussian-builttoilet inside the station?s Zvezda service module began acting up lastweek, forcing U.S. astronaut Garrett Reisman and his two Russian crewmates touse facilities aboard their docked Soyuz spacecraft before restoring thecommode to partial service. Spare parts for the balky space toilet are set tolaunch aboard NASA?s shuttle Discovery on Saturday.

?We areworking with the Russians to see what spare parts they?d like us to launch,?space station flight director Annette Hasbrook told SPACE.com.

Hasbrooksaid the toilet is now working in a so-called ?manual mode,? which requires astronautsto use extra flush water instead of the air flow system as designed. The glitchonly afflicts the toilet?s liquid waste collection system, she added.

?It?s notstandard operating procedure, but they?re able to use it,? she added during aseries of televised interviews.

Meanwhile,a NASA employee is en route from Russia to the agency?s Kennedy Space Center inCape Canaveral, Fla., with a diplomatic pouch carrying a spare toilet pump, saidScott Higginbotham, payload manager for the shuttle Discovery?sSTS-124 mission.

The pump,known as a gas-liquid separator assembly, is a 35-pound (16-kg) part about 1.5feet (about half a meter) long and 8 inches (20 cm) wide and tall.

The sparepart is due to arrive around 10:00 p.m. EDT (0200 May 29 GMT) and be packedaway inside Discovery?s middeck early Thursday, Higginbotham said. Shuttleworkers will have to remove spare wrenches, air scrubber equipment and otheritems to make room for the last-minute item, he added.

?Clearly, havinga working toilet is a priority for us,? Higginbotham said in a morning statusbriefing.

Discoveryis slated to launch Saturday at 5:02 p.m. EDT (2102 GMT) on a 14-day mission todeliver Japan?s massive Kibolaboratory module, an orbital room the size of a large tour bus.

The space station currently has one primary toilet, insidethe Russian built Zvezda module, to support its three-astronaut crew.

NASA has agreed to pay Russia $19 million for asecond space toilet to be installed in the outpost?s U.S. segment laterthis year. The new toilet, along with extra living quarters and other lifesupport equipment, will prepare the station for larger, six-person crewsplanned for 2009.

 

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