Astronautsaboard the International Space Station hooked up their brand new space toiletthis week, but it?s missing one last touch: A simple door, for privacy.
The $19million space commode?s curtain-like door was left off intentionally pending the completion of other work on nearby equipment early next month. But missionmanagers may move up its installation to jump-start use of the orbital toilet.
?Today thetoilet?s just wide open, and so it?s not in use just yet,? said Kirk Shireman,NASA?s deputy space station program manager, in a Thursday briefing. ?Mechanicallyand fluid-wise, it?s fully functional today.?
The Russian-builttoilet is the second commode to be installed aboard the space station. Astronautsdelivered the new toilet to the station?s U.S. segment last month during anextreme orbital makeover to prime the outpost to double its crew size upto six astronauts next year.
While thetoilet is vital to the station?s ability to support larger crews, it?s alsopart of a new regenerative life support system that collects astronaut sweat,urine and wastewater so it can be recycledback into potable water for drinking, food preparation, bathing and oxygengeneration.
Shiremansaid engineers are considering having the toilet?s door installed to beginusing the space commode and fully testing the lifesupport system.
?It?sprobably just an hour or two to put that thing up and to take it down again,?he said.
Plumbinglines to pipe urine from the bathroom to the recycling system, are already inplace along with others to route recycled water to a new kitchen also deliveredlast month.
Samples of waterrecycled from urine stored in containers aboard the station were returned to Earth for analysisand have checked out fine in tests, Shireman said. More purity tests are requiredbefore the water can cleared for human consumption, it has been approved forother uses, he added.
?We?veapproved for the crew to use it for bathing and shampooing their hair, just notfor consumption,? Shireman said, adding that the water is also being used tocreate oxygen aboard the station. ?And we expect that to begin in late Februaryor early March.?
Shiremansaid space station astronauts also installed the outpost?s new sleepingchambers this week and are gearing up for a planned Monday spacewalk.
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