The crew of the International Space Station awoke to discover the toilet out-of-order this morning, requiring use of the "outhouse", otherwise known as the Soyuz escape capsule attached to the station.
All were in good humor initially, but it was when Russian Cosmonauts Sergey Volkov and Oleg Kononenko failed to beat NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman to the toilet that things got ugly. Both were waiting impatiently when Reisman came strolling out of Soyuz capsule warning the two not to "go in there just yet".
The issue was further complicated when it was revealed that Reisman failed to comprehend that there was a toilet IN the capsule and falsely assumed the entire capsule WAS the toilet. After joking with Mission Control about the need for a "clean-up on aisle 3", the two burly Russians forced Reisman back into Soyuz with a mop and a can of air freshener.
Space toilets use jets of fan-propelled air to guide waste into the proper container. NASA originally proposed a back-up system of midgets with bellows and butterfly nets, but considered the need for a redundant toilet flushing system too expensive to implement. According to reports, the toilet, which is in the Russian-built service module, ceased functioning after the crew heard a loud noise and later discovered the fan had quit working. "It took us a few minutes to even recognize that there was a problem," said Volkov. "It was a loud noise, alright, but there are loud noises coming out of there all the time when Oleg eats Borsch."
To further complicate things, the Space Shuttle is scheduled to launch in a few days bringing seven astronauts to the ISS for a few days. "That's so typical," said Reisman. "No one ever comes to visit until you have crap lying around everywhere." Fortunately, the Shuttle has its own toilet, but the astronauts are reluctant to let the ISS crew use it. 'There are some hygiene issues we're not comfortable with," said one shuttle crew member who wished not to be identified.
Nicole Lemasters, spokeswoman for NASA, said that mission managers are working on plans to carry replacement toilet parts and a pallet of "Apollo bags" to the station. "If we don't get that toilet fixed soon, we're going to have a major problem with orbital floaties," she said. "We call 'em UFO's…Unidentified Fecal Objects," she laughed.
Meanwhile, the ISS crew was not amused and requested a shipment of Glade Air Freshener be included on the Shuttle flight. Speaking in broken English, Volkov, told reporters he was hopeful that the repair parts will do the trick and looked forward to the, "sh-t hitting the fan" again real soon.