CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The four Inspiration4 astronauts launching SpaceX’s first-ever all-civilian spaceflight this week will have arguably the best bathroom view in human history.
That’s because the toilet in their SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is apparently on the ceiling. And since this flight is not going to the International Space Station (but instead orbiting the Earth), the company removed the traditional docking adaptor that is located at the nose of the spacecraft and replaced it with a glass dome.
The dome, called a cupola, is kind of a smaller, bubble version of the iconic seven-window observation dome on the International Space Station, providing astronauts with epic views of the planet below. In the case of Inspiration4, the crew could have stunning views of the Earth while sitting on the toilet.
Live updates: SpaceX’s Inspiration4 private all-civilian orbital mission
More: Inspiration4: When to watch and what to know
“It’s not a ton of privacy. But you do have this kind of privacy curtain that cuts across the top of the spacecraft, so you can kind of separate yourself from everyone else,” billionaire tech entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who is financing (and commanding) the mission, told Insider in July. “And that also happens to be where the glass cupola is. So, you know, when people do inevitably have to use the bathroom, they’re going to have one hell of a view.”
Isaacman will be joined by three other civilians on the Inspiration4 flight: geoscientist Sian Proctor, who will serve as pilot; St. Jude Children’s Hospital physician’s assistant Hayley Arceneaux is the crew’s medical officer; with data engineer Chris Sembroski rounding out the team. Isaacman donated all three seats and filled them through contests to raise funds for St. Jude.
Exactly how SpaceX’s Crew Dragon toilet works is unclear, as much of the design is shrouded in secrecy. Thanks to a Twitter photo shared by European astronaut Thomas Pesquet, we know the toilet’s location and that its hardware is adorned with a poop emoji. (Pesquet launched to the International Space Station on the Crew Dragon Endeavour in April as part of NASA’s Crew-2 mission.)
“Here’s one of the most secret yet useful systems on the spacecraft… our toilet!” Pesquet wrote on Twitter. “There’s a curtain for privacy, and the rest is really just technicalities… let’s just say that the only advantage is the view. Shoutout to its designer @SpaceX.”
While space toilet systems have become slightly less messy over the decades, going to the bathroom in space remains one of the least glamorous aspects of space travel.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were the first two humans to fly on a Crew Dragon spacecraft as part of the Demo-2 mission, which blasted off on May 30, 2020. Prior to launch, the duo were asked about the toilet, with Hurley telling reporters that the spacecraft definitely had a toilet and they’d report back on how it worked after the flight ended.
Those details didn’t come, leaving us all still wondering exactly how the SpaceX toilet works.
– Inspiration4: When to watch and what to know
– Inspiration4 photo gallery
– ‘Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space’ launches on Netflix
Chances are, it’s probably similar to the facilities on the Russian Soyuz, which consists of a rudimentary bag and hose system. That is definitely a step up from the Boeing Starliner spacecraft — one of two commercial spacecrafts that NASA has contracted to fly its astronauts to the ISS and back — which does not even have a toilet on board.
Prior to the Inspiration4 crew arriving in Florida, they chatted with Space.com about the mission, but were scarce on a few details, namely the toilet.
However, according to Proctor, out of the 10 people to fly so far on the Crew Dragon, none of them have pooped in the toilet. So their crew could be the first to do so, after all, they will be the first to spend multiple days inside the Dragon spacecraft.
When asked if using the toilet was part of their preflight training exercises, Proctor said no, but did say that she was expecting the space toilet experience to be better than their survival training experience on Mount Rainier in Washington State back in May.
“I’m not exactly sure how the toilet works [on Crew Dragon], but it will be a step up from the one atop Mount Rainier,” she told Space.com.
Since the Dragon cupola is expected to provide breathtaking views of Earth and space, perhaps we may get a view of the facilities as well.
The Inspiration4 crew is set to blast off on Sept. 15 during a five-hour window that opens at 8:02 p.m. (0002 GMT on Sept. 16).