SpaceX’s historic mission, with an all-civilian crew aboard, was a success. Except for a minor problem with the toilet aboard Crew Dragon. Benji Reed, director of the human spaceflight program, admitted that the crew had some problems with the waste management system. Thanks to this mission a record was set for the number of people in space.
Details about what happened with the space toilet are still scarce, Reed said, but the anomaly is related to its suction fan. The suction fan is responsible for removing debris. “Nobody really wants to get into the gory details,” crew leader Jared Isaacman told CNN. He went on to say that, despite the toilet issues, nobody suffered any accidents or indignities.
We were able to work through it and get the toilet going even with what was initially challenging circumstancesJared Isaacman, pilot and spaceflight participant
According to Space.com, crews flying in the past aboard Dragon were sent to the International Space Station and thus stayed on the spacecraft for no more than 24 hours. The Inspiration4 crew stayed there for three days.
The Dragon’s toilet is located next to the bow of the ship, but due to the nature of the mission, the usual docking mechanism was replaced by the dome of the Inspiration4 capsule.
Because of this, the forward hatch had to be closed while someone was inside, which did not allow a crew member to enjoy panoramic views of Earth from space while being using the toilet.
Astronauts must perform their physiological needs in a toilet that has a waste management system. Therefore, as they empty their bowels, everything has to be sucked out.
According to CNN, the crew spent months poring over SpaceX manuals and training to respond to in-space emergencies. The worked with SpaceX ground controllers to pinpoint the cause of the error.
The little that is known about the incident, from what the SpaceX executives have announced after completing the mission, is that there was a problem “with a fan that is part of the waste management system that could be solved quickly so that it did not go any further.”
This mishap is not something that can take anyone by surprise, as similar occurrences are common in space travel. The last one was in 2019, when two toilets on the International Space Station were rendered unusable.