Brought to you by Newscorp Australia

Space nappies solve SpaceX Crew Dragon leaky toilet problem

Kamahl Cogdon, November 7, 2021 3:00PM Kids News

Print Article

Astronauts Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide at the SpaceX training centre before launching on the Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule to the International Space Station. Picture: NASA media_cameraAstronauts Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide at the SpaceX training centre before launching on the Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule to the International Space Station. Picture: NASA

space

Reading level: green

A faulty* toilet will leave a crew of astronauts relying on space nappies when they return to Earth from the International Space Station.

The toilet on board the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule has sprung a leak and will be out of operation for the journey, NASA has confirmed.

“Our intent is to not use the system at all for the return leg home because of what we’ve seen with the fluids we are talking about,” said NASA’s commercial crew program manager Steve Stich.

“We have other means to allow the crew to perform the functions they need.”

Mr Stich said the four astronauts – Americans Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Akihiko Hoshide from Japan – would instead wear a special “undergarment*”.

Journey to the International Space Station

Such undergarments have long been used by astronauts, allowing them to relieve themselves in their spacesuits before space toilets were available and also for launches, landings and spacewalks.

“Anytime the crew is suited they use an undergarment in that suit, and it’s a short mission coming home,” Mr Stich said.

“So, it’s pretty typical to have an undergarment on and they can use that on the way home.”

iss065e346115 (September 2, 2021) -- NASA astronaut and Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Megan McArthur poses with the crop of chile peppers being grown as part of the Plant Habitat-04 investigation inside the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) aboard the International Space Station. This is the first time chile peppers are being grown aboard the orbiting laboratory, and are one of the most complex plant experiments on the station to date because of the long germination and growing times. The pepper seeds were activated on July 12. 2021 and will grow for about four months, during which time they will be harvested twice. Astronauts will sample some of the peppers and return the rest to Earth for scientific analysis. media_cameraNASA astronaut Megan McArthur poses with a crop of chilli peppers being grown as part of a plant habitat experiment at the International Space Station. Picture: NASA

SpaceX first discovered the issue with its spacecraft’s toilet last month while inspecting a different Crew Dragon capsule.

It found that a tube used to funnel urine into a storage tank had become unglued and was causing a leaky mess beneath the capsule’s floor.

Checks of the other two Crew Dragon capsules found the same plumbing problem, raising concerns the urine could damage important hardware*.

While the problem was able to be fixed in the capsules that are on the ground, the repairs to the Endeavour capsule’s toilet will have to wait until it returns from the ISS. Therefore, the toilet will be out of action for the journey.

iss065e327446 (Aug. 30, 2021) --- NASA astronaut and Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Shane Kimbrough takes photographs of the Earth below as the International Space Station orbited 263 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil. media_cameraAstronaut Shane Kimbrough takes photographs of the Earth from the International Space Station as it orbits above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Brazil. Picture: NASA

Exactly how long that journey will take – and how long the astronauts will have to hold on or use their space nappies – is unclear.

So far, only two Crew Dragon spacecraft have returned from the ISS with people on board. The first of those trips took 19 hours and the second took only six hours.

The length of this journey, which is scheduled to take place early this month, will depend on several factors, including the weather.

The crew docked at the ISS on the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour in April and have been conducting scientific tests and maintenance.

They will be replaced by another crew of four astronauts, Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer, who are scheduled to arrive on SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts participate in a countdown dress rehearsal at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 28, 2021, to prepare for the upcoming Crew-3 launch. The astronauts are at Launch Pad 39A with the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon behind them during the rehearsal. From left are NASA astronauts Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, Crew-3 commander, and Tom Marshburn, and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer. The four-person crew will launch aboard the Crew Dragon atop the Falcon 9 on Oct. 31 to the International Space Station. Launch is targeted for 2:21 a.m. EDT from Pad 39A. Crew-3 is the third crew rotation flight to the space station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and the first flight of a new Crew Dragon spacecraft. media_cameraThe replacement crew of Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, Matthias Maurer participate in a countdown rehearsal at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US, ahead of their launch to the International Space Station. Picture: NASA

GLOSSARY

  • faulty: broken, not working properly
  • undergarment: items of clothing worn underneath the outer layers of clothing
  • hardware: machinery and equipment

EXTRA READING

How do astronauts clean clothes in space?

Titanium toilet blasts off to space station

NASA needs inventors to design a new space toilet

Record fast flight to International Space Station

QUICK QUIZ

  1. What is the name of the SpaceX capsule the crew will return to Earth in?
  2. How many astronauts are part of this crew?
  3. What will the astronauts wear during the journey?
  4. How long have that been on the International Space Station?
  5. What have they been doing on the ISS?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Selling space nappies
Marketing nappies as a product used by astronauts could appeal to some nappy buyers and be a point of difference between brands! Design new packaging for nappies targeted at people who are interested in space. Think about who your target market is and what will capture their attention so that they will buy these nappies.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Economics and Business; Visual Arts

2. Extension
Now you know a little more about how astronauts relieve themselves in the unique environment created by space exploration, think about some of the other everyday tasks that might be different or more difficult. Make a list of wonderings you have. Then choose one of your wonderings and see if you can do some research to find out the answer.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Technologies

VCOP ACTIVITY
Adjectives
An adjective is a describing word. They are often found describing a noun. To start with look at the words before the nouns. Search for all the adjectives you can find in the article. Did you find any repeat adjectives or are they all different?

Extension:
Pick three of your favourite adjectives from the text and put them in your own sentences to show other ways to use them.

Have you used any in your writing?

Extra Reading in space