With indoor plumbing available in just about every home in Canada, we sometimes take for granted just how easy it is for us to heed nature’s call. While in space, astronauts don’t have it nearly so simple.
On the International Space Station without the gravity we’re used to, a simple thing like a flush toilet would actually create more trouble than it would solve. Because of this, space toilets actually utilize directed air to pull human waste away rather than water to flush it away.
A long vacuum-like hose with a fitted end traps liquid waste and a seat with power suction is used to pull solid waste into specialized plastic bags that are then stored for later disposal. Both of these devices are employed in a weightless environment, so straps and footholds are available in the washroom to assist astronauts using the facilities.
Since we have yet to hear about any plumbers that can make the trip out to space, any problems with the toilet on the International Space Station would need to be either maintenance by the crew, or they would have to wait for a replacement to be sent via shuttle.