Cold war breaks out in orbit between Russia and U.S. over sharing toilets on International Space Station
By Claire Bates
31st March 2009
A new Cold War appears to be brewing between Russian and
U.S. astronauts in outer space - over a loo and an exercise bike.
The tricky issue of who uses whose lavatory on the
International Space Station only came to light when a Russian cosmonaut complained he was no longer allowed to use a U.S. toilet and exercise bike.
Gennady Padalka aired his frustrations in an interview
with a Russian newspaper before he headed off into space.
Photo: All smiles: The current crew on the ISS. But cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, left, says splitting rules over loos, food and exercise bikes
has lowered morale onboard. His U.S. colleague is in the back row, centre
American Michael Fincke and Russian Gennady Padalka have served together twice on the ISS. Fincke told Padalka: 'There is no space in space for politics'
He blamed officious busybodies back down on Earth for the squabbles
over how the international crew divided food, toilets and exercise facilities.
And he said the lack of sharing was lowering morale.
'What is going on has an adverse effect on our work,' the 50-year-old said.
Before he and his crew blasted off for space last Thursday,
Padalka told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper that in the past,
they'd all shared food rations out in space which had helped with bonding.
However, this was now frowned upon.
'The general table always united crews,' he said.
'Cosmonauts found something new to eat, and sharing the tasty food improved our mood. Now we are told we should eat only the Russian products.
'They also recommend us to only use national toilets.'
Padalka said before the mission he'd asked the Americans
if he could use their gym to stay fit.
Scene of strife: The crew on the ISS has risen from three to six
'They told me: "Yes, you can." Then they said "No."
Then they hold consultations and they approve it again,' he said.
'Then right before the flight, it turns out again that the answer is negative.'
Padalka conceded that compared to the Russians, the U.S. astronauts
were living the high-life in space with access to a luxurious American astro-loo and 'tastier' food.
But he said he was embarrassed by the arguments.
'Cosmonauts are above the ongoing squabble, no matter what officials decide,' he said.
'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.'
He added the ISS crew agreed with his sentiments and quoted
a fellow American astronaut: 'Michael Fincke said
"There is no space in space for politics", and he is right,'
the Russian said.
However these niggly issues are unlikely to ease as before Saturday
there were only three astronauts living on the ISS at any one time.
Now there are six, putting even more pressure on the limited resources.
So what dented the international harmony of space?
For seven years after his first space mission in 1998, Padalka said he and his U.S. astronauts had co-operated brilliantly. But this changed apparently when missions were put on a commercial footing.
The argument dates back to 2003 after the Columbia shuttle disaster.
Nasa shuttles were temporarily grounded, which left Russia
shouldering the full burden of taking crews and supplies to the station.
By 2005, Russia was charging other space agencies for the resources
used by their astronauts, who responded in kind.
However the experienced cosmonaut who has spent more than 386 days in space, also criticised the Russian portion of the station for being backwards.
'It's built on technologies dating back to the mid-1980s, at the very latest,' he said.
Russian space agency spokesman Alexander Vorobyov said he would not comment until he had read the interview.
Russia's space programme fell on hard times after the Soviet collapse
and struggled to stay afloat by selling seats on its Soyuz spacecraft
to well-heeled space tourists.
During the oil-fueled economic boom its budget increased, but it is again heading for tough times as Russia tries to weather its worst financial crisis since 1998.
How astronauts go to the toilet in zero gravity
Designed to be as much as possible like those on Earth,
each space toilet - properly called a Waste Collection System - can be used by both men and women.
The units use flowing air instead of water to move waste through the system.
Solid wastes are compressed and stored onboard, and then removed
after landing.Wastewater is vented to space on the Space Shuttle,
although future systems may recycle it, such as they do on the International Space Station.
The air is filtered to remove odour and bacteria and then returned to the cabin.
The Zvezda module toilet (circled), built by the Russians on the International Space Station - the Americans apparently have a deluxe astro-loo
The space station's Russian toilet uses fans and airflow in place of gravity to collect solid and liquid waste for disposal.
The gas-liquid separator is part of the liquid waste system.
It weighs about 35lb and is about 1.5ft long and 8in wide and tall.
Technology has come a long way since 1961 when the very first space toilet was the simple 'do it in your suit' version.
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