Not long ago, the Inspiration4 mission put civilian astronauts into orbit for the first time. They went into orbit aboard a special Crew Dragon capsule that ditched the docking hardware normally used to connect to the ISS in favor of a cupola that allowed the astronauts to see space and the Earth during their mission. Also in the cupola area was the toilet fitted for the mission.
The crew of Inspiration received training on using the space toilet while preparing for the mission. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk did confirm via Twitter that there were challenges with the toilet without elaboration. We now know that during the mission the crew aboard the flight did have to deal with an alarm going off, and that alarm had to do with the toilet.
Part of the crew training was in how to deal with emergencies. They worked with ground controllers to pinpoint the cause of the issue. Going to the bathroom in space is comlex and without specialized hardware, the waste goes everywhere but the toilet which would create a spectacular mess and potentially cause illness among the crew.
The toilet fitted aboard the Crew Dragon capsule has fans inside to ensure that waste goes where it’s supposed to. The alarms that went off during the mission indicated that one of the fans had a mechanical problem. SpaceX and Inspiraiton4 crewmembers were clear that the issue with the toilet didn’t place the capsule or the crew in danger.
There were times during the mission when the crew in the spacecraft had no communications with the ground. In all, about 10 percent of the time the crew had no communications and were able to operate without problems thanks to their training. Going to the bathroom in space is difficult and on Inspiration4, only a curtain separated the person using the bathroom from the rest of the crew. Not ideal, but their bathroom had the best view in the universe thanks to the cupola.