22:08 GMT22 October 2020
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    Last month, media reported that both lavatories aboard the International Space Station had gone out of order, leading to fears that the astronauts on board would have to use diapers. Later, it was reported that the toilet in the US segment of the ISS was speedily fixed, while the one in the Russian section had never broke down in the first place.

    The toilet in the US segment of the ISS is on the fritz for a second time in as many weeks, with astronauts now relying on the lavatory in the station’s Russian segment, RIA Novosti has reported, citing chatter between ISS crew and NASA ground control.

    A specialist from the RKA Mission Control Center outside Moscow informed Col. Aleksandr Skvortsov, one of the two Russian cosmonauts presently aboard the ISS, that the three US astronauts and one Italian astronaut aboard could use the lavatory in the Russian segment until the one in the US segment was repaired.

    The ISS is fitted with two permanent Russian-made lavatories, one situated in Russia’s Zvezda module and the other in the Tranquility module, built by a Franco-Italian aerospace concern but transferred to NASA in 2009. Two more toilets are available in the two Soyuz spacecraft presently docked at the station, but these are meant for use only during flight, and only in an emergency while docked.

    Waste and hygiene compartment in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station
    © CC0
    Waste and hygiene compartment in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station

    In late November, European Space Agency astronaut and ISS Expedition 61 commander Luca Parmitano informed ground control that the facilities in the Tranquility module had gone out of order, and that the lavatory in the Russian module was filled to the maximum, prompting crew members to consider using the onboard emergency supply of diapers. The facilities were soon restored to working order, and Roscosmos refuted that there was anything wrong with the toilet in the Zvezda module.

    NASA bought its cutting edge space toilet from Russia’s Energia Rocket and Space Corporation in 2007 for $19 million, following unsuccessful efforts by US engineers to create their own regenerative system. The US space agency renewed a contract for the maintenance and repair of the facilities in 2018.

    The toilet caused a minor scandal in 2007 after American astronauts refused to let Russian crew members use it, confining the cosmonauts to using an older model aboard the Zvezda.

    Earlier this year, a source in the Russian space industry informed Sputnik that over 10 liters of water had leaked from the facilities in the US segment of the station, forcing crew to use towels to mop up water that had spilled into the Tranquility module.

    Along with Commander Parmitano of the ESA, the crew of the ISS presently includes Russian cosmonauts Aleksandr Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka, as well as NASA cosmonauts Andrew Morgan, Christina Koch, and Jessica Meir.


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