The International Space Station has a record 13 people on board at the moment, as the six regular inhabitants have met with the visiting astronauts from Space Shuttle Endeavour, which docked on Friday. And amidst all this, the main toilet has broken down.
Flight director Brian Smith declined to speculate whether overuse caused the toilet trouble and said the cause of the malfunction has yet to be determined. Astronauts are currently using the identical facility on the Russian service module Zvezda and the toilet onboard the shuttle.
But when it rains, it pours. The shuttle cannot currently empty its waste water because there is a danger of affecting the new exposed Japanese science lab, Kibo.
"For right now, having all shuttle crewmembers using the shuttle toilet is not going to be an issue," said station flight director Brian Smith. “(But) if the toilet cannot be repaired within about six days, it could become a more serious matter.”
It would seem ludicrous that a malfunctioning toilet is causing such chaos, but think about it from the perspective of an astronaut. They live in a zero-gravity space with limited supply of water. The toilets need to have an air-flow system for waste collection, to compensate for the lack of gravity.
The space station toilet had broken down around May-June last year as well, when a pump failed that enabled the toilet to collect liquid waste.
And another toilet-related row broke out earlier this year, when a Russian cosmonaut complained that he was no longer allowed to use the US toilet because of billing and cost issues.
Still, if all else fails, NASA has assured everyone that Apollo-era urine collection bags are on hand at the space station. Perhaps, fecal bags too…
See, this is why it would have been handy to have an Indian on board. You could just tell him Amitabh Bachchan is nearby and he would think of a way out of the stinking mess, even if it means jumping into a pile of shit!