Spacemen told not to boldly go

International Space Station – The 13-strong crew of the ISS has been inconvenienced by the failure of the station’s main toilet.

40 years to the day after the first manned lunar landing, astronauts are facing a rather more basic problem as the crew of the shuttle Endeavour is forced to use the spacecraft’s own toilet and ISS residents are using a back-up toilet in the Russian part of the station.

“Earlier today, the US Waste and Hygiene Compartment was shut down after a malfunction,” said NASA in a statement. “About six liters of pre-treat flush water is believed to have flowed into the pump separator and into other areas it should not be.”

In the meantime, Mission control has told the crew not to boldly go while attempts are made to fix the problem with the multi-million dollar Russian-made toilet and to use urine collection bags in an emergency. The main toilet also caused trouble two years ago when a replacement pump had to be flown up to the ISS on another shuttle mission.

Two crew members have been given the job of fixing the toilet. Mission chiefs say the astronauts have the spare parts in orbit to fix it and that the problem should be resolved ‘in a day or so’.