Think Toilet Trouble on Earth is Bad?

Try communal living in orbit, with a single toilet servicing an entire crew at the International Space Station. What happens when the toilet breaks? Astronauts resort to the primordial space waste system: plastic bags.

But plumbing help is on the way, in the form of the seven-member Discovery shuttle crew, who will bring spare parts, particularly a 1.5 foot-long pump, delivered by airplane speedily from Russia, where the toilet was made.

The astronaut’s toilet uses air (a fan) to funnel waste matter into space, using vacuums designed specifically for the task. The Discovery shuttle, along with the much-needed toilet parts, is set to launch at NASA Kennedy Space Center, scheduled for liftoff May 31 at 5:02 p.m. EDT.

The Discovery crew members also plan to do other repairs, like fixing a paddle wheel that rotates on one of the stations solar wing panels, and replacing nitrogen tanks.

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