May 31, 2008
Posted: 07:25 PM ET
The Discovery crew is on a mission to repair perhaps the most famous commode in the solar system. They are carrying a 35 lbs pump that provides the suction necessary to remove liquid waste – and separate out gases. The pump in the station's sole toilet failed more than a week ago. The toilet is part of the Russian made living module called Zvezda. The crew installed one spare and it failed. Put in the second spare (same manufacturer lot number) and it failed as well. The Russians then gave another pump (from another lot) to a NASA employee who carried it in a diplomatic pouch from Moscow to Orlando – drove to the Cape and loaded it onto Discovery in the wee hours of Thursday morning. The fact that two spares failed is kind of odd. But put that together with the seriously odd things that have happened on the last two Soyuz landings (malfunctions led to a backup landing mode that amounts to a pretty scary 9-G ride back from space) and you have to wonder what is happening with Russian space manufacturing. I asked NASA Administrator Mike Griffin if he has any idea what is going on with the Russian hardware – particularly the Soyuz.
"They are honestly perplexed as they should be," said Griffin, "but they are admitting they are perplexed as they dig into it they are not covering anything up – there is no obvious change that we or they can spot."
Girffin says the Russians are being very open about the whole investigation and have allowed a NASA observer to sit in as they do their work.
Miles O'Brien/Space Correspodent
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