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Plumbing in Space! — Why Now?
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Plumbing in Space!

[That requires “a voice”, like James Earl Jones, and an orchestral fanfare.]

I’d hate to see the mileage charge on this job: Space station struggles with balky toilet.

It is amazing how much we take gravity for granted, and how much help it is around the house. You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone [which is from a song, I think].

There’s something about having a vacuum cleaner for a toilet, that bothers me.


1 Fallenmonk { 05.27.08 at 5:36 pm }

Hey, try to flush on a nuke sub at cruising depth. Same but inverse problem. There is a reason you have to go through a training course before you can go to the head. I think I might prefer to deal with pressure than a vacuum though.

2 Bryan { 05.27.08 at 5:57 pm }

That has to be like pressure breathing, when the oxygen is coming in under pressure above 40K feet, and you have to force it out of your lungs.

Using the “facilities” when it’s -40° can get “artistic”.

The big thing on aircraft at altitude is to be sure no one opens the dump valve, because that comes close to a vacuum cleaner and you lose the internal pressure.

3 Bryan { 05.27.08 at 6:03 pm }

I remembered the song – Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell

4 andante { 05.27.08 at 10:38 pm }

If the FSM wanted man to travel in space he would have placed convenient dump stations throughout the universe. Or ‘honey wagons’.

Or perhaps he/she already has. Maybe that’s why our plumbing clogs up on a fairly regular basis.

5 Bryan { 05.27.08 at 10:55 pm }

Actually I was using a 100-foot tape, followed by a hose with a special bladder on the end cleaning out a sewer line behind my Mother’s house this afternoon with the “assistance” of Ringo, who has decided she prefers the outside. Trying to pull or push anything with a cat watching can be a experience.

Knowing I was going to have to do this, is why the item caught my eye.

6 Badtux { 05.28.08 at 12:11 am }

Hmm, I imagine it went like this for Ringo:

“Yay! A 100 foot long cat toy! Yippee!”

Yes, I am accustomed to that sort of “help” too :-).

Regarding the toilet, that is the same toilet that was developed for the Space Shuttle in order to allow women to avoid having to wear diapers for the length of a mission. Not exactly new technology — indeed, is 30 year old technology now. And NASA still can’t make it work right. Typical :-(.

7 Bryan { 05.28.08 at 12:30 am }

It’s the Russian version, so at least it can be fixed, as opposed to the “modular” US approach that requires you to swap out the entire system.

Apparently they have a bad run of motors [gee, what a surprise, a defect with hand wound motors]. The way they build things, if you get something that works it will work forever, but finding the one that works is a bit iffy without any quality control.

As for cat toys – that hose is definitely a candidate for failure after the way she attacked with fang and claws.

8 Steve Bates { 05.28.08 at 2:17 am }

Mir once had problems with its toilet, and I wrote doggerel for the occasion. I’m away from home at the moment, but when I get back, I’ll post it here… possibly slightly bowdlerized; I don’t remember how, um, edgy that particular dog was.

9 Mustang Bobby { 05.28.08 at 11:22 am }

There’s a scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey that shows Dr. Floyd reading the lengthy instructions for the Zero Gravity toilet.

And then Steve’s mentioning his doggerel reminded me of the story Barry Manilow tells about the days when he was writing jingles, and he came up with one for Hoover:

“When the jar of peanut butter goes crash onto the floor
And is ground into the carpet by the brat who lives next door
Don’t reach for the broom and dustpan or that old Electrolux;
‘Cause when it comes to cleaning, Hoover really sucks!”

He wonders why they didn’t use it.

10 jams o donnell { 05.28.08 at 11:35 am }

I wonder if plumbers across the USA were thinking KA CHING! when the news of the busted toilet was released. Imagine the call out fee on that job!

11 Bryan { 05.28.08 at 1:54 pm }

Steve, it is the same system as the Mir, so they had parts, but apparently the parts were bad out of the box.

MB, well, it would have convinced me to buy a Hoover. I’d forgotten about the 2001 scene. Kubrick’s 2001 was much nicer that Reality’s, even with HAL.

The problem, Jams, would be finding a US plumber who would fit in a spacesuit.

12 andante { 05.28.08 at 3:26 pm }

a US plumber who would fit in a spacesuit

Thank you, Bryan, for ruining my lunch.


13 Bryan { 05.28.08 at 4:44 pm }

With all of the construction we used to have down here, the only normal looking plumbers are at construction sites. Those available for actual problems in the house have a hard time fitting in the cabinet under a kitchen sink.

14 Steve Bates { 05.28.08 at 5:45 pm }

Well, OK; I hope I’ve improved in the 12 years since I wrote this…

     A Real Shipload in Space

Two Russkis and a Yank, in place
In Russia’s spaceship out in space;
C’mon you fellas, gotta face it:
You’re in space… and you’re in spaceshit!

Neither Russians nor “John” Blaha
Think this situation’s ha-ha:
With no toilets on the way,
Perhaps it’s time for E.V.A.!

To get it past their bulk-y suit
Would be no trivial pursuit;
What if this novel means’s employed?
New meaning to the term “to void.”

Now their bathroom’s got no seating,
Maybe they can give up eating…
If they don’t, I’d have to guess:
They will all be F.O.S.!

They’d not sit in shit and vermin
If the station’s flag was German,
But the Russians never learn:
I’d say, bei Mir ist’s nimmer schoen!

– SB the YDD

15 Steve Bates { 05.28.08 at 5:51 pm }

@Mustang Bobby, I inherited my late father’s Hoover… loud as anything, and really ineffective. I wrote doggerel about that, too (with the same “Hoover really sucks” at the end), but one 12-year-old dog is enough for one of Bryan’s threads, or maybe already one too many…

16 Mustang Bobby { 05.28.08 at 6:26 pm }

…US plumber who would fit in a spacesuit.

They’d never do it. How can you show butt-crack in a spacesuit?

17 Fallenmonk { 05.28.08 at 7:15 pm }

Mustang Bobby stole my gag so I have no comment other that to say if you were the astronaut in trouble it would not be very funny…much like Steve’s doggerel.

18 Kryten42 { 05.28.08 at 7:22 pm }

So… this must be what is known as *toilet humor* I guess. Well, not 100% sure about the humor part. LOL 😉

I guess a lot of you must be having a slow day then. 😀

Heh… don’t forget to flush!

Cheers. LOL

19 Bryan { 05.28.08 at 8:33 pm }

As for “toilet humor” – you’re half right, Kryten.

If you add up all of the university credit hours represented in this thread, it gets really scary. Thousands of hours of undergraduate and graduate courses and we are clogging the intertubes with this – the mind boggles.

All they really need is a Dust Buster and a supply of cat litter.

20 Kryten42 { 05.28.08 at 9:03 pm }

Sadly… that’s all too true! 😀

Then again… these days, one has to find humor where one can! 😀

21 Bryan { 05.28.08 at 10:39 pm }

It’s better than discussing the depressing world of politics.

22 Kryten42 { 05.28.08 at 11:06 pm }

Cheer up Bryan! Politics has been depressing one way or another for Centuries m8! You read history… 😉

It’s just same old… The difference is, we are now *enlightened* enough to appreciate the irony and find humor in it. 😀 Could be worse… Could be the grand old days when you were thrown in a fetid dungeon for missing a penny tax and left to rot. 😉


23 Bryan { 05.29.08 at 12:26 am }

Yes, but pennies had value in those days and no one pretended they were going to “rehabilitate you” in a dungeon. 😈

24 Kryten42 { 05.29.08 at 12:44 am }

OK, You have a point. How about the good ol’ days in grand old London town where if you were poor and found with more than a schilling you ended up in court and usually had a hand removed or got 10 years in prison because everyone knows you must have stolen it, no matter what you said. (Or, sent to this or the US penal colony as slave labor). 😉


25 Bryan { 05.29.08 at 1:33 pm }

Well, a schilling was a lot of money in those days, I mean the Dutch bought Manhattan island for 10 pounds, and at prevailing wages it wasn’t likely that an honest poor person would have more than 12 pence.

It’s logical, just like witches float because they aren’t weighed down with a soul, very scientifick.