Earth Orbit - "At the time it sounded like a good idea," explains Roger Wilcox, senior budgeting director for the NASA shuttle launches. "Installing a coin operated toilet onboard the International Space Station (ISS) saved us money. And in this age of budget cuts, you learn to pinch a penny wherever you can."
"Try explaining that to the poor astronauts that are stuck up there right now waiting to use the restroom," said a Doug Johnson, NASA engineer working with the ISS crewmembers trying to override the quarter meter on the door of the space station's only toilet. "NASA budget cuts have left them literally without a pot to piss in."
So far Johnson and the ISS Commander have tried everything they know to get the coin operated toilet to unlock and nothing has worked.
"We've tried everything," said the frustrated and visibly uncomfortable, ISS Commander in a live videoconference feed to mission control. "Bobby pins, the old stick a coin to the end of a wire with some bubblegum and twisting and turning the football shaped knob over and over again. Nothing works. The latrine still reads: 'Access Denied."
For now the ISS crewmembers can still use their spacesuits as a backup bathroom, but capacity is limited so it is a race against time.
"Not only that," said Johnson, lowering his voice as he spoke. "It's very embarrassing. Think about it. There you are with your environmental suit on working with your buddies in zero gravity. And all of a sudden, nature calls. You gotta go."
As Johnson explains using layman's terms, the spacesuit is self-contained unit. An enclosed environment with its very own waste management system, but it does not provide the wearer with very much privacy.
"Everybody can tell by your facial expressions that you're taking a dump in it," said Johnson, as he runs yet another computer model trying to figure out how to pick the lock on the bathroom door. "Just like people can tell back here on earth when you cut one in your car alone, while your driving. At work by the water cooler or even sitting behind your desk. People can tell. You can have the best poker face in the world, but people can still tell, especially, if you're not regular [constipated]. Then your face turns as red as the sun. People think you're stroking out or something."
Johnson has advised all the astronauts keep their helmets at the ready, if they want some semblance of privacy.
"With the sun visor down, they should have all the privacy they need," said Johnson still running the computer model.
"Commander are you alright?" asked mission control, back at the live videoconference feed. "Your heart and repertory monitors are going off the chart. And your face is all red. Commander? Commander?"
"I don't need any help," reassured the Commander his voice sounding somewhat strained as he attempted to lean his back up against a communication module wall with his arms folded tightly across his chest. Slowly the other crewmembers of the space station floated into the communication module to checkout what all the commotion was all about.
As the ISS crewmembers looked on at him in silence, the Commander trying his best to look nonchalant nodded at them with a tight-lipped smile on his face, which continued to get redder and redder.
"Excuse me," finally spoke the Commander, his voice clearly strained as he reaching for his helmet, attaching it and flipping down the shaded visor. "I need a little privacy."
"After today's tragic incident aboard the ISS," said NASA at a press conference. "We're currently reviewing our 'Pay-As-You-Go' policy."