He Waste Collection System (Waste Collection System or WCS) of the space shuttle is the most expensive toilet ever designed. Not surprisingly, when the design was last revised in January 1993, the cost had amounted to $ 23.4 million.
And it is that making minor and major waters in space is not a trivial problem. It even involved a flying poop incident in 1969.
The size of an old telephone booth, WCS consisted of more than 4,000 pieces, and a complicated system of switches in the style of the change of gears that operated a series of fans, pumps and air ducts. Training hours were required to make use of the WCS correctly.
In the absence of gravity, the collection and retention of liquid and solid wastes is directed by the use of an air flow. Since the air used to direct the waste returns to the cabin, it is filtered in advance to control the smell and clean the bacteria. In older systems, sewage is vented in space, and solids were compressed and stored for disposal upon landing. The most modern systems expose solid waste to vacuum pressures to kill bacteria, which prevents odor problems and kills pathogens.
Despite how sophisticated the WCS is, during the STS-46 mission, one of the fans did not work properly, and the crew member Claude Nicollier It was required to perform flight maintenance.
A previous complete failure, on the eight-day STS-3 test flight, forced his two-man crew (Jack Lousma and Gordon Fullerton) to use a fecal containment device (FCD) for waste disposal and disposal.
It was not the first time that there were space problems with the poop.
The flying poop
The first space toilets were not so sophisticated, and caused an embarrassing problem with a flying poop during the Apollo 10 mission of 1969.
Declassified transcripts show astronauts Tom Stafford, Gene Cernan Y John young joking about a poop that floated through the cabin. Everyone denied it was his, and finally managed to catch her with a napkin.