Astronauts leaving the International Space Station this weekend will have to wear diapers on the trip home as their capsule’s toilet is broken.
NASA astronaut Megan McArthur on Friday called the situation “suboptimal” but manageable.
“Spaceflight is full of a lot of little challenges,” he said from orbit during a news conference. “This is just one more that we will have and that we will attend to in our mission. So we’re not too worried about it.”
Mission managers could decide within hours whether to bring McArthur and his three companions in their SpaceX capsule before launching their replacements. That launch was postponed for more than a week due to bad weather and an unspecified medical problem with one of the crew.
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet told reporters that the last six months have been intense up there. The astronauts performed a series of extravehicular activities to upgrade the station’s power grid, faced inadvertent engine starts from coupled Russian vehicles that caused the station to briefly spin, and greeted a private Russian film crew, a first for the station. space.
They also had to deal with a leaking toilet, when they lifted panels on their SpaceX capsule and discovered puddles of urine. The problem was discovered during SpaceX’s private flight in September, when a tube dislodged and urine leaked under the floor plates. SpaceX fixed the capsule’s toilet as it awaited liftoff, but said the one in orbit was unusable.
Engineers determined that the urine had not structurally damaged the capsule and was safe for the return flight.
On the culinary side, astronauts harvested the first chili peppers in space. “A good morale booster,” according to McArthur. Last week, they got a taste of their harvest when they added the green and red chiles to their tacos.
“They had a rich spicy flavor, a bit of a prolonged sting,” he said. “For some that was more problematic than for others.”
Also returning with McArthur and Pesquet will be NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. SpaceX sent them into space on April 28.