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10 Apr, 2009 12:13

No politics in space toilets

There’s no place for politics in space, and all rumours about tensions on the ISS are groundless, according to the 18th crew of the ISS. The spacemen landed aboard the Soyuz TMA-13 spacecraft on Wednesday.

With them was the two-time space tourist, US billionaire Charles Simonyi.

On Friday, the crew was answering journalists’ questions at a joint media conference in Zvezdny Gorodok (Space Town) in the Moscow region.

Not surprisingly, among other things, they were asked about rumours that appeared in the media about some disagreements between Russian and American crewmembers.

It was alleged that Russians had to pay for using American equipment – even the toilet – and the other way round.

Satisfying journalists’ curiosity, Expedition 18 commander, American Astronaut Michael Fincke, said:

“Once we are onboard, there is no politics, there’s no other stuff. The Americans definitely never said that the Russians couldn’t use our toilet. That’s unfounded. And Americans, of course, could always use the Russians' toilet. That’s not a problem. So those were just rumours.”

”We work together as a crew; we got our work done together as a crew,” he added.

As for their tasks during the mission, Charles Simonyi said the list of things that should be done on the ISS, which is still being constructed, is ‘endless’. His team mates noted that Simonyi worked almost as a full-time crew member, and they didn’t feel he was a tourist.

For Mike Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov, the mission was certainly very busy. During their 177-day long stay on the station, they conducted over 40 experiments, had two spacewalks, and were visited by two space shuttles, and two Progress spacecrafts.

During the 18th expedition's work in orbit, a new set of solar batteries was installed at the ISS, and, also, a new Russian-made toilet was set in the American section of the station.

The most important task, they said, was to prepare the ISS to house a six-person crew for a long time. And that mission was fulfilled as well – the station is ready.

For Fincke, it was a second stay at the space station. Lonchakov completed his third trip to the ISS.

They now call each other ‘space friends' and said they are going to continue to visit each other – on Earth.

The 18 expedition have also started a new tradition by being the first ones to sign a special book in an authentic office of Soviet cosmonaut Yury Gagarin – the first human who went to space. His museum in Zvezdny Gorodok was recently renovated. It was decided from now on that all astronauts and cosmonauts who come back from the ISS will sign the book on Gagarin’s table.