SpaceX's private Inspiration4 astronauts had some toilet trouble in space

The crew of SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission speak with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital patients from space during their mission.
The crew of SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission speak with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital patients from space during their mission. (Image credit: Inspiration4)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — After spending nearly three days in space, SpaceX's Inspiration4 crew may have more appreciation for the facilities here on Earth — namely, the toilets. 

The historic all-civilian SpaceX mission, which launched Sept. 15 and successfully splashed down on Saturday (Sept. 18), went off without a hitch, except for a minor issue with the Dragon's onboard toilet

"It was very clean mission from start to finish," SpaceX's Benji Reed, who leads human spaceflight programs, said during a post-flight news conference Saturday night. "We had a couple of issues that we worked, we did work something on the Waste Management System, but that was worked [out] fine and, you know, the crew was happy and healthy."

Details are still scarce as to what happened with the space toilet, but the anomaly involved its suction fan, according to Reed. The suction fan is responsible for removing waste products. 

Video: Splashdown! SpaceX Inspiration4 crew back on Earth
Related: Inspiration4: SpaceX's historic private spaceflight in photos

Historically, crews that have ridden aboard the Dragon were in transit to the International Space Station and so only stayed in the spacecraft for 24 hours or less at a time. The facilities likely saw more use during the Inspiration4 mission, since this crew lived inside the Dragon capsule for approximately three days. 

Dragon's toilet is located near the craft's nosecone, which is also where the cupola window is located on the Inspiration4 capsule. (The cupola replaced the docking mechanism other Crew Dragons use to connect to the space station.)  

European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet shared an image of Crew Dragon's toilet on Twitter. (Image credit: Thomas Pesquet)

According to Reed, the forward hatch had to be closed while the facilities were in use, thus preventing a crewmember from looking out the massive window while taking care of business. That means no sweeping views of Earth from space for astronauts using Dragon's toilet, a possibility that was hinted at by the mission's commander and financier Jared Isaacman before flight.

However, the experience of using the Dragon space toilet remains something of a mystery without any details from crewmembers yet revealed.

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Amy Thompson
Contributing Writer

Amy Thompson is a Florida-based space and science journalist, who joined as a contributing writer in 2015. She's passionate about all things space and is a huge science and science-fiction geek. Star Wars is her favorite fandom, with that sassy little droid, R2D2 being her favorite. She studied science at the University of Florida, earning a degree in microbiology. Her work has also been published in Newsweek, VICE, Smithsonian, and many more. Now she chases rockets, writing about launches, commercial space, space station science, and everything in between.