SpaceX, NASA send 4 astronauts back on shorter flight - meaning less time in diapers due to leaky toilet

Business Insider US
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
  • NASA and SpaceX delayed the return of four astronauts from the ISS from Sunday to Monday.
  • The rescheduled flight is much shorter than the initial, planned trip - eight hours instead of 20.
  • This means less time wearing "undergarments" the astronauts have to rely on because of a toilet leak.
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

SpaceX and NASA have delayed a flight returning astronauts from the International Space Station (ISS) because of high winds in the Gulf of Mexico near to where the capsule is supposed to splash down, NASA said in a blog post on Sunday.

The Crew-2 mission is now scheduled for Monday afternoon just after 2 p.m. EST, after initially being scheduled for Sunday. The rescheduled flight is expected to be 12 hours quicker than the original was, NASA said: The four-person crew will take just eight hours to return to Earth, rather than the 20 hours planned for Sunday's flight, per SpaceX and NASA's websites.

The journey time from the ISS back to Earth onboard a Crew Dragon capsule can vary. SpaceX's first crewed flight, called Demo-2, took just over 19 hours to return in August 2020, per Space, while the Crew-1 mission back to Earth in May lasted nearly seven hours.

The rescheduling means the astronauts will spend less time in special diapers they have to wear because of a toilet leak in the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

The four astronauts on the Crew-2 mission, who are coming back to Earth after seven months, will have to rely on "undergarments" for toilet breaks, Steve Stich, NASA's commercial crew program manager, previously said in a press briefing, per CNN.

This is because the Crew-2 astronauts discovered a toilet leak in the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, which has been docked at the ISS since it flew the crew there in April, Insider's Morgan Mcfall-Johnsen reported in October.

The toilet on the spacecraft will be out of order for the return trip, Stich said in the press briefing, leaving astronauts to resort to "other means," according to a Space report. "It's a short mission coming home," he added, per Space.

SpaceX's first all-civilian mission, Inspiration4, first found an issue with the Crew Dragon spacecraft's toilet during a three-day trip in space in September.

A toilet tube carrying urine into a storage tank came loose beneath the spaceship's floor and leaked onto a fan that generates suction to direct the waste in the right direction. The fan then sprayed urine underneath the spaceship's floor, but urine didn't get into the cabin.

SpaceX asked Crew-2 astronauts, who have been at the ISS since spring, to check for the same issue. The astronauts confirmed contamination in the space capsule, SpaceX official Bill Gerstenmaier said in a press conference in October, per The New York Times.

This isn't the first time SpaceX and NASA have had to postpone crewed missions recently.

The upcoming Crew-3 mission to the ISS has been pushed back three times because of bad weather and a "minor medical issue." The launch was planned for October 31st, but is now slated to blast off on Wednesday, per SpaceX's website.

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