Astronauts to deliver pump for balky space toilet

Thursday, May 29, 2008

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- NASA rushed Wednesday to get a special pump on board shuttle Discovery to fix a balky toilet at the international space station, as the launch countdown got underway.

The space station's Russian-built toilet has been acting up for the past week. The three male residents have temporarily bypassed the problem, which involves urine collection, not solid waste.

Russian space officials provided the 1 1/2-foot-long pump to launch aboard Discovery on Saturday.

The shuttle's seven astronauts arrived at Kennedy Space Center a few hours ahead of the start of countdown Wednesday afternoon.

To make room for the pump inside Discovery's crammed cabin, NASA was going to pull out some wrenches, a spare part for the space station's oxygen generator, and a microbe-killing device for use in the European space lab.

"Clearly, having a working toilet is a priority for us, so some of these things that we didn't need for the next six months or so could wait," said payload manager Scott Higginbotham.

Meanwhile, the main cargo on Discovery is Japan's Kibo lab, a 37-footer that's as big as a school bus. Kibo means "hope" in Japanese.

Launch time on Saturday will be 5:02 p.m. Forecasters put the odds of good launch weather at 80 percent.

The flight is scheduled to last 14 days.

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