Late last month, Roscosmos lost control of the Progress M-27M spacecraft, an unmanned cargo resupply mission. Though the spacecraft launched successfully on Tuesday, April 28, it soon started spinning uncontrollably and was declared officially lost by Roscosmos head Igor Komarov the following day.
The view from the out-of-control spacecraft, video via NASA.
Reuters reports that after a number of malfunctions, Komarov said “the craft's continued flight and its docking with the ISS is not possible.” Now, it will mostly burn up in Earth's atmosphere when it hurtles back towards our planet at the end of the week. RIP, Progress M-27M,we barely knew ye.
Because the mission was unmanned, and not in smashing-into range of the International Space Station (ISS) the loss is not a disastrous one. But it does mean that the cosmonauts and astronauts will go several more weeks without the cargo aboard the lost spacecraft, including water supply facilities, personal protection equipment, and sanitation and hygiene equipment — like “waste management system spars” and “solid waste containers.” Things you need when relieving yourself in space, basically.
The Moscow Times says that the loss of this particular shipment has prompted cosmonauts aboard the station to ration their bathroom visits. Per the outlet:
“Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) may have to make fewer trips to the bathroom after the loss of an unmanned resupply vehicle destined for station last week left the crew without new waste storage bags, news agency Interfax reported Tuesday. “Usually, these items are replaced upon use,” an unidentified space industry source told Interfax. “Now, in order to save them, we have decided to use them longer,” the source said.”
If that’s really the case, NASA seems to know nothing of it. In an email to Fusion about the lost cargo mission, NASA public affairs officer Kathryn Hambleton said that “Both the Russian and [U.S. Orbital Segments] of the station continue to operate normally and are adequately supplied well beyond the next planned resupply flight.”
And in an interview with the press from the Kennedy Space Center, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko didn’t seem particularly disturbed by the loss of the mission:
In response to a question from an Associated Press reporter, "What kind of an impact do you expect on your day-to-day life up there, and was there something in particular you were looking forward to getting?" Kelly said:
"Well, we have a lot of redundancy on board the Space Station. The program plans for these kinds of things to happen, they're very unfortunate when they do, but we do have supplies on board… one of the great things about this international partnership is that we do have other vehicles that can resupply the space station."
Overall, Kelly said, "We should be okay… I think we're going to be in good shape."
But the reporter was persistent: "Was there anything in particular that you're really sorry that you're not going to get at this point in time?"
Kelly, again, responded:
"Well, I'm not familiar with everything that was on the vehicle. I know the stuff that was manifested for the U.S. Operational Segment, which was a lot of clothing… also some EVA hardware. But, you know, the important thing is hardware can be replaced, and we'll replace all that hardware and we'll continue to operate the space station."
Kornienko, for his part, said:
"Of course, Progress is a big concern. It slightly changes our plans, but as Scott says, we are 100 percent confident that we will be living and working very productively on board of the International Space Station up until the time when the next cargo vehicle is going to come. And we don't have any problems… everything is fine, with the slight exception of the Progress situation."
It seems, then, that any bathroom rationing plans are nonexistent, under wraps, or not widely discussed by the group. Understandable — some things are private, even in space.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.