An alarm went off on SpaceX's all-tourist space flight. The problem was the toilet - CNN
Sep 25, 2021 2 mins, 13 secs

And the Crew Dragon's "waste management system" fans were experiencing mechanical problems.

Poteet and SpaceX's director of crew mission management later confirmed there were "issues" with the waste management system at a press conference but didn't go into detail, setting off an immediate wave of speculation that the error could've created a disastrous mess.

When asked directly about that on Thursday, however, Isaacman said "I want to be 100% clear: There were no issues in the cabin at all as it relates to that."

But Isaacman and his fellow travelers on the Inspiration4 mission did have to work with SpaceX to respond to the problem during their three-day stay in orbit, during which they experienced numerous communications blackouts, highlighting the importance of the crew's thorough training regimen.

"I would say probably somewhere around 10% of our time on orbit we had no [communication with the ground], and we were a very calm, cool crew during that," he said, adding that "mental toughness and a good frame of mind and a good attitude" were crucial to the mission.

SpaceX did not respond to CNN Business' requests for comment.

The toilet anecdote also highlights a fundamental truth about humanity and its extraterrestrial ambitions — no matter how polished and glitzy we may imagine our space-faring future, biological realities remain.

Excreta in space, a history

Isaacman was — as numerous astronauts before him — bashful when it came to discussing the "toilet situation."

"Nobody really wants to get into the gory details," Isaacman said.

But when the Inspiration4 crew talked to some NASA astronauts, they said "using the bathroom in space is hard, and you've got to be very — what was the word?

— very kind to one another."

He added that, despite the on-board toilet issues, nobody suffered any accidents or indignities.

"I don't know who was training them, but we were able to work through it and get [the toilet] going even with what was initially challenging circumstances, so there was nothing ever like, you know, in the cabin or anything like that," he said.

Figuring out how to safely relieve oneself in space was, however, was a fundamental question posed at the dawn of human spaceflight half a century ago, and the path to answers was not error-free.

During the 1969 Apollo 10 mission — the one that saw Thomas Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan circumnavigate the moon — Stafford reported back to mission control on Day Six of the mission that a piece of waste was floating through the cabin, according to once-confidential government documents.

"I hope that this is a model for future missions," he said, adding that he believes in SpaceX's mission to eventually support entire colonies of people living in outer space.


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