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An alarm sounded during SpaceX’s Inspiration4 mission. Here’s why

It has emerged that SpaceX’s first all-civilian crew experienced an emergency situation during the groundbreaking Inspiration4 mission earlier this month.

At some point during the three-day spaceflight, an alarm alerted the four Crew Dragon passengers to an issue with — of all things — the toilet.

A faulty space toilet may sound rather trivial when you consider other things that you really wouldn’t want to go wrong while orbiting 357 miles (575 kilometers) above Earth. But the issue could have resulted in waste products floating around the spacecraft in the microgravity conditions, causing serious problems for those on board.

Shortly after the four nonprofessional astronauts returned home just over a week ago, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk acknowledged in a tweet that the all-civilian Inspiration4 mission “had some challenges” with the toilet, though he didn’t go into detail.

The problem centered on the toilet’s fans, which create suction to quickly remove waste matter before it has a chance to start floating around. According to a CNN report, the fans developed a fault that set off the alarm.

Asked recently about whether the problem had led to a messy situation aboard the Crew Dragon, mission commander Jared Isaacman said: “I want to be 100% clear — there were no issues in the cabin at all as it relates to that,” adding that “nobody really wants to get into the gory details.”

To the relief of everyone aboard the spacecraft, the issue was fully resolved, “so there was nothing ever like, you know, in the cabin or anything like that,” Isaacman said.

SpaceX redesigned its Crew Dragon for the Inspiration4 mission. As the spacecraft wasn’t heading to the International Space Station, the docking mechanism was able to be replaced with an all-glass dome to provide the most expansive views ever offered by a spacecraft of that size.

The toilet was also placed in the same area, with a bathroom visitor able to pull a curtain across for privacy whenever nature called.

Despite the toilet trouble, the mission was declared a success and could pave the way for a full-fledged commercial service for private citizens.

Curious about how to use a bathroom in space? Then check out this insightful video made by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station.

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Trevor Mogg
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