Crew Returning in SpaceX Capsule Must Wear Pee Pads

Toilet issue can't be fixed in Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule docked at the ISS
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 26, 2021 5:10 PM CDT
Updated Nov 3, 2021 10:30 AM CDT
SpaceX Scrambles to Fix Toilet Trouble
In this April 24, 2021, photo made available by NASA, the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule approaches the International Space Station for docking.   (NASA via AP, File)

Update: When four astronauts head home from the International Space Station this month, they'll have to relieve themselves on their person. CNN reports the crew reached the ISS in April, and the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule that has since been waiting to take them home is experiencing the same leaky toilet problem as some of SpaceX's other capsules. It can't be fixed in space, so the crew will have to make use of "undergarments" for the ride home. No word on exactly how long that ride will be; the two completed so far from the ISS in a Crew Dragon capsule measured 19 and six hours. New capsules that launch will have the fix. Our original story from Oct. 26 follows:

SpaceX is taming some toilet troubles in its capsules before it launches four more astronauts. The company and NASA want to make sure the toilet leaks won’t compromise the capsule launching early Sunday from Kennedy Space Center or another one that’s been parked at the International Space Station since April. During SpaceX’s first private flight last month, a tube came unglued, spilling urine onto fans and beneath the floor, said William Gerstenmaier, a SpaceX vice president who used to work for NASA. The same problem was recently discovered inside the Dragon capsule at the space station, he told reporters Monday night.

As a permanent fix, SpaceX has welded on the urine-flushing tube that's inside the company's newest capsule, named Endurance by its US-German crew, the AP reports. NASA isn't quite finished reviewing the last-minute fix. As for the Dragon capsule in orbit, less urine pooled beneath the floor panels than the one that carried a billionaire and three others on a three-day flight, Gerstenmaier said. That's because the NASA-led crew only spent a day living in it before arriving at the space station.

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SpaceX is conducting tests to make sure the spilled liquid didn't weaken the orbiting capsule during the past six months, Gerstenmaier said. Any structural damage could endanger astronauts during their flight back to Earth next month. The final tests should be completed later this week, he noted. In the meantime, the one German and three NASA astronauts fly in from Houston on Tuesday for the countdown. Like their predecessors, they'll spend six months at the space station. (More SpaceX stories.)

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