CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Astronauts leaving the International Space Station this weekend will be stuck wearing diapers on the way home due to their capsule’s broken toilet.
POT Astronaut Megan McArthur described the situation on Friday as “suboptimal” but manageable.
“Space flight is full of many little challenges,” he said during a press conference from orbit. “This is just one more that we will find and that we will take care of in our mission. So we are not too concerned about that. “
Mission managers could decide later Friday whether to take McArthur and his three crewmates back to their SpaceX capsule before launching their replacements. That launch has already been delayed for more than a week due to bad weather and an undisclosed medical issue involving one of the crew members.
French astronaut Thomas Pesquet told reporters that the last six months have been intense there. The astronauts undertook a series of spacewalks to improve the station’s electrical grid, endured unintentional firing from docked Russian vehicle thrusters that sent the station on brief turns, and housed a private Russian film crew, first a space station.
They also had to deal with the toilet leak, lifting panels on their SpaceX capsule and discovering pools of urine. The problem was first observed during SpaceX’s private flight in September, when a tube detached itself and spilled urine under the floorboards. SpaceX fixed the toilet in the capsule awaiting liftoff, but deemed the one in orbit unusable.
Engineers determined that the capsule had not been structurally compromised by urine and was safe for the return trip.
On the culinary side, the astronauts grew the first chili peppers in space, “a good moral boost,” according to McArthur. They were able to sample their vintage last week, adding chunks of green and red bell peppers to the tacos.
“They have a nice spicy flavor, a bit of a lingering sting,” he said. “Some found it more troublesome than others.”
Also returning with McArthur and Pesquet: NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. SpaceX launched them to the space station on April 28.
An American and two Russians will remain on the space station after their departure. While it would be best if their replacements arrived first, to share tips on living in space, Kimbrough said the remaining NASA astronaut will complete the newcomers.