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31 Mar, 2009 13:54

US loo a no-go zone for ISS cosmonauts

Space officials bombard ISS crews with restrictions on who can use what in the orbit, said the current crew commander. Cosmonauts must even mind the flag on the toilet they use and the food they eat.

Speaking to Novaya Gazeta before his crew blast off to the International Space Station, Gennady Padalka said there was an ongoing ‘divorce’ in the orbit.

“Now we have joint operations only for medical issues, since they affect health and security of the crew, and emergency situations like a loss of pressure or a fire. All the rest is divided. For instance, spacewalks will be done only for national programmes. I believe Michael Barratt will be the last to do a spacewalk in a Russian suit. We were even recommended to use only our national toilets,” the veteran cosmonaut complained.

The mushrooming rules on the separation of space assets lead to much confusion in the orbit and undermine morale, the cosmonaut said.

“I ask them if I may use the American gym machine ARED on board the ISS. They say I may. Then they say I may not. Then they consult and allow it again. And now right before the launch it turns out it’s forbidden again.”

The situation was different in the early years of the ISS, Padalka recalled. He said despite the officials’ attempt to turn the space station into a divorced couple’s apartment, the crews themselves are higher than that and will sometimes ignore ridiculous regulations.

He said: “We are now supposed to eat only Russian food and astronauts to eat only American. In reality it will all be different. Michael Barratt will order a bonus container with things I like, and I’d love to do the same for him. Spacemen are above this quarrel, whatever the officials decide.”

“We are all grown up educated and well mannered people who have minds of their own, and we can make the friendly environment we need in space,” Padalka added. “[NASA astronaut] Michael Fincke said once: ‘There is no space in space for politics’. And he is right. We are delegates of the planet. The things that happen do no good for the work on the ISS. We have to be together.”

Gennady Padalka heads the current crew onboard the international space station. It is the third space mission for the 50-year-old.