WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Astronauts aboard the NASA space shuttle Discovery will be carrying an extra piece of cargo when they launch on Saturday — a new toilet pump.
Crew members aboard the International Space Station have been fumbling with plastic bags since their zero-gravity toilet went made “a loud noise” and stopped working properly last week.
“We will be taking some spare parts up,” NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
The three station crew members want the toilet working properly for obvious reasons — but on Saturday they will be sharing facilities with seven space shuttle astronauts.
“You can imagine you are having guests over and your one and only bathroom is broken. Clearly this is something you want to have working,” Beutel said.
Discovery will carry a pump and other spare parts for the toilet, which is still disposing of solid waste.
The seven Discovery crew members will carry out other handyman tasks after they dock on Monday, including fixing a paddle wheel that turns one of the station’s solar wing panels and replacing nitrogen tanks needed to pressurize the station’s ammonia cooling system.
A second toilet is also planned. The space toilets vent waste matter into space and work using carefully designed vacuums so nothing unpleasant escapes into the gravity-free station.
They are helping prepare the station for an expanded permanent six-member crew.
NASA has two years to complete the space station before retiring the shuttle fleet.
Reporting by Maggie Fox, editing by Will Dunham and Jackie Frank