Space, the Final Cost Overrun

The International Space Station is a cramped scientific laboratory orbiting in an environment where temperatures on a good day top out at minus 273 degrees Celsius. (Celsius is the unit of measure named after President Bill Clinton’s daughter. It was a birthday present.) Despite the harsh conditions and a history of shoddy construction and repair, the space station last month officially became more comfortable than my own house.

They put in a second bathroom.

As of last November, there’s no more waiting in the space station when nature calls. Nor, for that matter, when Houston calls and astronauts are looking for a different place to hide during the daily inquiries from ground control. (Houston: “Umm, we noticed you concluded your last transmission with the phrase ‘I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob g’goo goo g’joob.’ We know you’ve been up there for more than eight months, but listen, we need to talk. Over.”)

After 10 years and almost $100 billion, the International Space Station has produced less useable scientific data than the International House of Pancakes. (Scientific American just reported that customers who order IHOP’s new “Big-Bucket-of-Pancakes Breakfast” are actually visible from space when they waddle back to their cars.) Regardless, with a second bathroom, a new gym, and an updated kitchen, the space station now has more comforts than the average American starter house.

In my own home, I have to wait for what seems like a full rotation of the earth just to get in and shave. But not the crew of the space station. With two bathrooms there’s no need for an impatient astronaut—having just consumed a large Tang—to hop up and down and shout “You wanna hurry UP in there?!” or, alternately, “I hear a newspaper rustling behind that door. You better not be reading the sports section IN THERE!”

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Sojourners Magazine February 2009
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