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May 31, 2008

Toilet Technology

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

Filed under: NASA • Space

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Franky   May 31st, 2008 8:54 pm ET

How come I never seen this blog???? I mean, I couldv'e been commenting this months ago!!! Man, I gotta explore more CNN than just politics, LOL!!!

s callahan   June 1st, 2008 2:01 pm ET

I'm looking forward to the Mars/Phionex blogs to start again...dam those people who hacked in to NASA's blogs....
Well, i'm still fascinated with this flight.....and humored by the toilet mess...poor things....the spare parts sound like something bought at Wal Marts (always needing to return).
Happy journey with the new addition to the space home!

JOANN WEST   June 1st, 2008 8:00 pm ET

How much does the Space Shuttle Launch contribute to Gobal Warming?

prof crayzee   June 2nd, 2008 2:09 am ET

Maybe those 'spares' should be pre-tested, and not from the same lot number! And why just send ONE spare up? With an item this vital, you'd think they could splurge for two!

in terms of global warming... I'd say the space shuttle is negligible compared to US cars and our military's use of oil and the resulting carbon emissions. At least the shuttle has a chance of being part of the solution to our problems down here on earth. your trip to the mall? not so much.

Bob   June 2nd, 2008 10:11 am ET

Miles O'Brien is a pretty good Space Correspondent, I've read his other work (including a noteworth article on cafeteria lunches) in the New Caanan High School Newspaper.

Old Bob   June 2nd, 2008 10:17 am ET

Miles writes: "The Discovery crew is on a mission to repair perhaps the most famous commode in the solar system"

Actually the Russian crew members will be doing the repair, not the Discovery crew, but why let facts stand in the way of a good story, eh?

Mark   June 2nd, 2008 2:27 pm ET

Miles O'Brien is the greatest literary genius of our time. You can see why he was so quickly promoted to Chief Space Correspondent.

jonkaye   June 2nd, 2008 3:19 pm ET

Might be time to employ 21st century technology to the problem...CyberStall:

If only they could fix one nagging problem...

Mark   June 2nd, 2008 5:57 pm ET

Man, that pun was too good to ignore. Fixing a toilet and then we read, "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."

Old Bob   June 2nd, 2008 7:26 pm ET

Mark writes: "
Miles O’Brien is the greatest literary genius of our time. You can see why he was so quickly promoted to Chief Space Correspondent."

Always nice to hear from you, MILES.

Rick   June 2nd, 2008 7:41 pm ET

Like CNNs political commentary, that space toilet just needs a good flushing. If CNN needs an editor, I'm available. Your corrospodents [sic] clearly need some help and it would be nice to inject some reality into your reporting.

By the way the space shuttle doesn't contribute to global warming as much as Al Gore's private jet – and unlike him, the shuttle doesn't have a copper mine. Anyway, I thought everyone knew that this kind of climate change can only be attributed to heat from Michael Moore's armpits?

s callahan   June 3rd, 2008 11:44 pm ET

lol..Mark really needs to get a moment on Jay Leno...gotta laugh..
the 'space blogs' are bccoming a comedy

Heard they may evict if the toliet won't flush....sounds pretty extreme...who would have ever thought a zillon dollar ship would be at risk because of a toilet !
well, maybe the doggie bags will help some...Wish you you sit in and watch the Russians fix everything..i trust they will. 🙂

Keith VanZandt   June 4th, 2008 7:39 am ET

Well everything else the Russians make turns out to be low quality junk why not the parts they make for the space shuttle. As I recall they spent more time fixing things on MIR than they did on their experiments.

Mark   June 4th, 2008 9:29 am ET

To realize that the station is at rish due to a toilet is to realize that we have humans up there.

LIz Miller   June 4th, 2008 10:17 am ET

Alert re Los Angeles

The star people say that earthquake is imminent see

these people are genuine
Thanks as they can only uplift people who ask for help from the ships

John   June 4th, 2008 12:17 pm ET

Global warming from shuttle launch? The fuel for the main shuttle engines is oxygen and hydrogen resulting in water. Maybe some byproducts from the solid boosters but negligible compared to all the other greenhouse gasses/pollution from other sources.

s callahan   June 4th, 2008 2:45 pm ET

I read the toilet is fixed...those Russains 🙂 .
Congrats on the addition to the new home as well. It's pretty comical that the toilet takes headlines over the new lab.

Neo   June 4th, 2008 4:22 pm ET

I want to see more space toilet news! We the people gots to see whats flushing and what needs plunging!

Franko   June 5th, 2008 8:17 pm ET

Rick: "By the way the space shuttle doesn’t contribute to global warming as much as Al Gore’s private jet"

The water vapor from the launch makes a cloud which acts not only as a blanket, but also reflects the warmth from the Sun. Plus or minus ? The Shuttle is plus or minus as it passes overhead ?

The solid fuel boosters make aeresols, which have cooling effect.
Shuttle launches will be eliminated to save the Polar Bear ?

Larian LeQuella   June 7th, 2008 6:47 pm ET

That we need to focus on a trivial matter like a F'ing toilet to get people's imagination fired up is pathetic. There is so much more real science happening out there, sadly most of the population wouldn't have the first idea what scientists are talking about. Less than 20% of the US population is even scientifically literate. It's sad! And our education system is a mess. The only college aspirations our children can have in the future will be to work in the University cafeteria if we keep on the same track of teaching sophistry....

As for Russian manufacturing... Well, it used to be that they could make that ONE part to exacting specifications, but mass production would normally fail them in the end. And to thin we were afraid of them from the 50s to the 80s!

Franko   June 8th, 2008 9:01 pm ET

"That we need to focus on a trivial matter like a F’ing toilet to get people’s imagination fired up is pathetic."

In order of importance:
Air, Toilet, Water, Food
Somewhere near the end are the make buisy experiments.

David Emery   June 11th, 2008 9:29 am ET

Speaking of toilet technology, have you-all ever seen the toilets in Japanese or Korean hotels? I'm used to a toilet with one mechanical binary control ('flush'), these things need a full owners manual with all the knobs and switches. And frankly, I'm not inclined to experiment with controls while sitting on one feeling rather exposed, kinda like James Bond in that one movie 🙂

Tony   June 12th, 2008 11:31 am ET

Quote: "How much does the Space Shuttle Launch contribute to Gobal Warming?"

How about asking how much have we learned from space exploration? Or How about this one...How much has the environmental concerns risked the lives of the brave men and women to travel into space to help better our society....

Maybe you're not aware but the EPA banned the original foam than lined the space shuttles in the beginning. Using the new "Environmentally Friendly" foam is the CAUSE of the Space Shuttle Columbia tragety. And we are still risking lives each time a shuttle is launched just because the new foam might not harm as many ducks as the previous material.

I'm sorry, but human life is too valuable to risk on some notion that the planet will fall apart if we continue to use the appropriate foam.

s callahan   June 17th, 2008 8:44 pm ET

Larian, What is you take on the release of waste in space? curious.

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