Strife on the Space Station: Russians Can't Use the American Toilet

By Eliza Strickland | March 31, 2009 8:41 am

Padalka Russian cosmonautBureaucratic rules regarding who can use what equipment aboard the International Space Station are causing some hard feelings among the crew members, according to Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who gave an interview to Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper before he blasted off towards the space station on Thursday. Padalka complained that regulations will prevent him from using his American colleagues’ exercise bike to stay fit in space. Worse than that, [officials] also ruled that American and Russian crew members should use their own “national toilets”, with Russian crew banned from using the luxurious American astro-loo [The Guardian].

Padalka said strict regulations that prevent the sharing of everything from food to toilets hurts the crew’s morale and makes working in space still more complicated. But he added that the crew will rise above the pettiness. “Cosmonauts are above the ongoing squabble, no matter what officials decide,” said Padalka, a veteran of two space missions, according to the newspaper. “We are grown-up, well-educated and good-mannered people and can use our own brains to create normal relationship. It’s politicians and bureaucrats who can’t reach agreement, not us, cosmonauts and astronauts” [AP].

Padalka, who will be the station’s next commander, said the arguments date back to 2003, when Russia started charging other space agencies for the resources used by their astronauts [The Guardian]. Russian spacecraft were the only link to the space station in 2003, when the Columbia disaster caused NASA to temporarily ground all the space shuttles. Once Russia started charging for resources, Padalka said, other countries responded in kind.

The situation may be exacerbated by an increase in the number of astronauts living on the ISS. Until now only three astronauts lived on the International Space Station at any one time [BBC News]. But beginning in May, space agencies plan to have six crew members living and working on the station.

Related Content:
80beats: Space Junk, Spacewalks, and Pee Trouble: News From the ISS
80beats: Russian Invasion of Georgia Imperils U.S. Access to Space Station
80beats: Astronauts Have a Toilet Again—Oh, and a $1 Billion Science Lab
DISCOVER: 20 Things You Didn’t Know About… Living in Space

Image: NASA, Gennady Padalka testing a space suit on a previous mission

  • Doug

    Insert obligatory comment about this all being a needless pissing contest.

  • Looker

    On in how many time the politicians will trace chalk lines for each nationality into the ISS?

  • Jumblepudding

    the fact that space toilets aren’t standardized is news to me.

  • homer

    The Russians are causing trouble for eastern Europeans all the time. I hate reading about the deeds of the Russian government.

  • homer

    The Russians are causing trouble for eastern Europeans all the time. I hate reading about the deeds of the Russian government.
    Should mention great post! Looking forward to reading the next one!

  • wvdk

    Pay toilets in space! And who gets the recycled peewater?

  • BooBoo

    What is anyone going to do if they share. Nothing that’s what.

  • G.Washington

    Sounds like the cheap greedy Russians can dish it out but they can’t take it. Is there anything decent about those ruthless barbarians.

  • James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

    As usual, the politicians are behaving like spoiled children who can never learn to play nicely together. And, Mr. Washington, you are among the worst. I hope you are not really an American, you are a disgrace simply as a human being.


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