Russian media is reporting that the American toilet in the International Space Station (ISS) burst last week, leaking more than two gallons of water that had to be handled by astronauts using towels.
“Our colleagues at the [Tranquillity module of the ISS] had an incident on Friday,” a source told Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik International. “Over 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of water leaked before the problem was fixed. The crew had to collect the water using towels.”
Water is a critical provision astronaut need to live and work in space. ISS crew members must save as much water as possible — each is allotted about two liters daily, according to NASA. They stretch the ration by collecting, cleaning, and reusing wastewater.
The toilet on the ISS has had problems before. In 2009, the space toilet also broke due to a flooded liquid separator, Space.com reported.
The toilet, which NASA bought from the Russian aerospace company S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Public Corporation (also known as RSC Energia), cost $19 million. It works like a miniature municipal water-treatment system, which recycles urine into drinking water, according to Popular Science. It was delivered to the ISS in November 2008.