Houston, we have a hygiene problem: Apollo transcripts reveal toilet troubles

A transcript of the 1969 Apollo 10 mission reveals that the three astronauts on board faced floating human waste in the capsule.

Apollo 10's command module

Launching two months before the Apollo 11 moon landings, the three-man Apollo 10 crew orbited the moon in a “dry run” for the mission that would make Neil Armstrong a household name.

The three astronauts on board  - Thomas Stafford, Eugene Cernan and John Young - faced some rather unpleasant hazards in space in May 1969, as the 500-page transcript of their mission reveals.

"Give me a napkin, quick,” commander Stafford says. "There's a turd floating through the air."

"I didn't do it," command module pilot Young says. "It ain't one of mine."

Shortly afterwards, Young says, “Here’s another goddamn turd. What’s the matter with you guys?”

The toilet facilities inside the cramped Apollo 10 capsule were not exactly five star - so much so that Apollo astronauts generally used laxatives prior to flight to clear themselves out.

Accidents clearly still happened, though.

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A NASA report described the systems used for waste on Apollo 10 as “distasteful” and “requiring an inordinate amount of time”.

Astronauts had to relieve themselves into a bag, first sticking the bag to their buttocks, then pushing their waste into the bag before wiping.

NASA was aware that the systems were basic - a new version had been designed to replace the “fecal bags”, but was not ready in time for the Apollo missions.

Instead, astronauts ate “low residue foods” in flight, to reduce the number of toilet visits.

The Apollo missions were proposed in May 1961, when President Kennedy said there would be a manned moon landing before the decade was out.

Apollo 10 was a “dress rehearsal” for the Neil Armstrong’s landing in July. NASA reportedly ensured that Stafford and his team did not have enough fuel to land on the moon, in case they decided to try under their own initiative.

Today’s astronauts operate in more comfortable conditions.

The International Space Station has a dedicated toilet, with separate receptacles for liquid and solid waste, aided by suction. Astronauts also have a choice of toilet paper, with American astronauts favouring a softer feel, and Russian cosmonauts choosing a coarser grade of paper.

The full transcript is available here.