Space Shuttle Discovery is blasting off from Cape Canaveral today with some critical payload in tow: Spare parts to repair the broken commode — and, we should stress, the only commode — aboard the International Space Station.
Toilets in space are complicated pieces of machinery. They rely on a vacuum to safely dispose of waste — and the one aboard the ISS lost suction. Until help arrives, the three-man crew has devised a work-around, but it takes two people and 10 minutes per flush. Here a NASA engineer explains just how the a space toilet works.
How to tune in? Watch NASA TV on the Web here, Mark Cuban’s HDNet or follow on Twitter with NASAWatch. Or, if you want to take your chances, try CNN, MSNBC or Fox News. As a Johnson space centre spokesman aptly put it, “If there’s a big car chase they may not cover it.”
Also aboard Discovery: a school-bus-sized, Japanese built lab that will be the ISS’s biggest segment. The Japanese media and tourists have descended on Cape Canaveral — maybe some of them will Twitter it.
This launch, scheduled for 5:02 p.m. est, is not without its gimmicks. Disney’s Buzz Lightyear is also getting shot into orbit as part of an educational partnership with NASA.
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