CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – To everybody’s relief, astronauts fixed the toilet at the international space station on Wednesday and opened up a grand new science lab.
The toilet problem had fast become the most pressing issue of the mission, so much so that a spare pump was rushed from Moscow to Cape Canaveral last week for a last-minute ride aboard space shuttle Discovery.
Russian Oleg Kononenko put in the new pump, and the toilet started working normally again.
For two weeks, the three men living aboard the space station had to manually flush the Russian-built toilet with extra water several times a day. It was a time-consuming job and a waste of water, not to mention an unpleasant chore.
So everyone – especially in orbit – was thrilled that the new pump seemed to solve the problem.
“Let’s start using it,” Russian Mission Control told Kononenko. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed.”
The space station’s toilet woes seemed to capture the world’s attention. It ended up being the main topic of conversation at NASA news conferences, with fastidious suit-and-tie managers having to describe the ins and outs of using the restroom in weightlessness.