SpaceX's Inspiration4 orbital mission with four non-professional astronauts was by all accounts quite a triumph for space history, space tourism and fundraising for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. However, there were some tense moments when it came to using the toilet on board the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted on Sept. 21 that the Inspiration4 crew had some "challenges" with the loo. He promised upgrades for future missions.
The all-civilian crew of four consisted of billionaire Shift4 Payments founder Jared Isaacman, St. Jude physician assistant and childhood cancer survivor Hayley Arceneaux, geoscientist Sian Proctor and aerospace industry professional Chris Sembroski.
Musk didn't elaborate on the exact challenges, but Isaacman spoke to CNN and dropped a few more details. Turns out the toilet's suction-creating fans had a mechanical problem that triggered an alarm within the spacecraft. Isaacman emphasized there was no human-waste-related disaster on board. The crew was able to work through the issue with some assistance from mission control.
SpaceX hasn't revealed much about how the toilet works, but Isaacman told Insider in July that the facilities were located near the spacecraft's large cupola window with a curtain to allow for a wee bit of privacy. He described the toilet as having "one hell of a view."
Toilets in space can be tricky. The International Space Station got a new toilet last year. It uses a suction system to keep waste from floating about and incorporates upgrades to better accommodate female astronauts.
European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet took a flight to the ISS on a Crew Dragon earlier this year and tweeted a photo of the toilet on his ride, calling it "one of the most secret yet useful systems on the spacecraft."
Inspiration4 spent three days in orbit before returning to Earth with a splashdown on Saturday. That's three days of using the bathroom in microgravity while in very close quarters with others. Upon hearing of the mission's potty problems, bidet company Tushy said its product engineers were standing at the ready to develop the first ever space bidet, the Tushy Ass Blast 9000.
Anything that improves the toilet situation will no doubt be welcomed by the next crew to board the Dragon.