BEIJING, July 20 (Xinhuanet) -- One of two commodes aboard the international space station broke down Sunday, forcing a record 13 astronauts currently on board to share a single Russian toilet and one aboard the shuttle Endeavour, according to media reports Monday.
Mission Control advised the crew to hang an "out of service" sign on the toilet until the toilet can be fixed. The six space station residents had to get in line to use a back-up toilet in the Russian part of the station, and Endeavour's seven astronauts were confined to the shuttle bathroom.
Belgian Frank De Winne and American Michael Barratt were assigned to repair the toilet and they had to wear goggles, gloves and masks. They ripped apart the compartment, working well into the evening. Mission Control finally asked them to stop and resume the effort Monday morning.
Flight director Brian Smith declined to speculate whether overuse caused the toilet trouble.
"We don't yet know the extent of the problem," Smith told reporters. "It may turn out to be of no consequence at all. It could turn out to be significant. It's too early to tell right now."
If repairs fails, Apollo-era urine collection bags are on hand, NASA said.