SpaceX Crew-2 Dragon capsule and its astronauts has concluded on Monday their six-month stay on the International Space Station.
One of the astronauts on board the Dragon, Thomas Pesquet, informed reporters how intense their experience was in the past six months. The astronauts performed a number of things such as spacewalks to upgrade the station's power grid, endured inadvertent thruster firings by docked Russian vehicles that sent the station into brief spins, and hosted a private Russian film crew which was a first for the space station. While SpaceX Crew-2 capsule was ready to return home, a fortuitous case happened; a toilet malfunction. In the whole duration of the trip, from the time the hatches are closed to splashdown on Monday morning, the toilet remained offline.
K. Megan McArthur, the Crew-2 mission pilot considered the incident "suboptimal" as the crew were prepared to manage the situation while onboard Dragon. “Spaceflight is full of lots of little challenges,” Dr. McArthur said. “This is just one more that we’ll encounter and take care of on our mission.” It was in September that they had taken notice of the issue during SpaceX's private flight. The cause was when a tube that funnels waste from the capsule came unglued and spilled urine beneath the interior floorboards. SpaceX engineers carried out experiments to test whether urine, which is mixed with an ammonia-removing compound called Oxone, could corrode the aluminum in the ship and would pose a safety risk for the return flight. The outcome of the experiment showed that urine had little effect on the aluminum parts due to heavy coating of paint on Crew Dragon that are “a great blocking agent to the liquid,” Sarah Walker, SpaceX’s mission management director for Crew Dragon, told reporters during a news conference. “We learned that the liquid evaporates within just a couple days,” Ms. Walker added, “and that really limits the impact that we observed when we were doing all of our post-flight inspections.” NASA officials validated the results of the experiments and considered Crew-2's return home safe. But the toilet leak remained, meaning that when astronauts needed to go, they had to hold it in, or they could also rely on what NASA calls the absorbent “undergarments” in their flight suits—a built in high-grade diaper. More to what they accomplished in outer space, the astronauts grew the first chilli peppers in space – “a nice moral boost”, according to McArthur. They tasted their harvest by adding pieces of the green and red peppers to tacos. “They have a nice spiciness to them, a little bit of a lingering burn,” McArthur said. “Some found that more troublesome than others.” Also returning with McArthur and Pesquet are the NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and the Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide. The team were launched onboard SpaceX on 23rd of April and were confirmed to orbit in space for a maximum 210 days.