Ambient background noises from the Crew Dragon can be heard as the crew opens the hatch. The mission mascot—a plush golden retriever doll—floats through the capsule. Crew members Chris Sembroski, Hayley Arceneaux, and Jared Isaacman look up in anticipation of the view. Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, the musical classic featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey, plays in the background (Proctor claims it was her idea and that she downloaded the track onto her iPad before launch).
“Oh my gosh,” said Arceneaux. She begins to pull out a long white ribbon from a carrying case, saying, “Alright, I’ve got work to do.” The ribbon is the Dragon hatch seal cover, which is used to “keep hatch seals free of debris and remove the need for periodic cleanings by the crew,” according to NASA. The view of space stops Arceneaux cold, as she’s mesmerized by the scene unfolding in front of her.
Amid the oohs and aahs, Sembroski can be heard saying, “Holy shit,” in what is a wholly appropriate response to the situation. Proctor’s camera captures the incredible view of Earth and the transfixed faces of her crewmates.
The hatch was opened very early during the three-day mission, which ended with a successful splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, September 18. During a post-flight press conference, Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX, said problems were experienced with the Waste Management System (i.e. the toilet), which is located just below the cupola. In a tweet put out yesterday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the same, remarking that, “We had some challenges with [the toilet] this flight,” and that an upgrade is needed.
No further details were given, but exposure to zero gravity can cause vomiting and diarrhea, part of a condition known as “space adaptation syndrome.” Sufferers may also experience “facial stuffiness from headward shifts of fluids, headaches, and back pain,” according to NASA. The reason for it likely has to do with fluids shifting in the body as a result of microgravity, and/or sensory conflicts, in which a person struggles in the absence of a discernible up and down. Around half of all astronauts experience space sickness during their first few days in space.
In a tweet, Isaacman said moving and working in microgravity “came really naturally for all of us.” He had a “minor pressure feeling” in his head, “kind of like hanging upside down from your bed, took about 36 hours to start to subside for me.”
We don’t know if any of the Inspiration4 crew members got sick, but the faulty toilet doesn’t sound like fun, especially given the cramped quarters. Hopefully SpaceX will figure something out.