Space toilet likely to be object of fascination

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 June, 2012, 12:00am


Items from the national space programme never seen before in Hong Kong will go on show in Taikoo Shing this month, with the star of the show expected to be the toilet - even though it's already out of use.

If all goes to plan, by the time the exhibition opens on June 28, the Shenzhou-IX spacecraft will already be in orbit on the nation's latest space mission, carrying a toilet especially modified to accommodate the country's first woman astronaut.

The China Space Museum in Beijing has loaned 31 objects to be displayed in the Cityplaza mall between June 28 and July 29 for free public viewing. Exhibits include space equipment, astronauts' food and sleeping bags.

Among the six items not shown at previous exhibitions will be a genuine 8.3-metre escape tower that activates during emergencies and was on board the Chang Zheng-2F rocket that in 2003 carried China's first astronaut, Yang Liwei , into space.

Sabrena Zhang Lijian, the museum's director, explained that the escape tower is designed to detach itself from the orbiter and return crew members during any emergency occurring in the 15 minutes before, and two minutes after, a launch.

Zhang said the highlight of the show was expected to be the space toilet that went into orbit aboard the Shenzhou-VI in 2005, even though it has been seen in Hong Kong before.

'In our experience, we noticed that the space toilet has drawn the most attention and it is essential to the survival of our astronauts,' she said.

The toilet, the first for solid waste, was a breakthrough in comfort for China's astronauts. The facility on the Shenzhou-VI craft that carried Yang on his historic mission could collect only liquid waste, meaning the occupant had to be on a liquid-only diet. The toilet has deodorising, watering and sterilising functions; it was emptied upon the craft's return to earth.

The last time an exhibition on China's space programme was held in Hong Kong was in 2008 in the Science Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui East.

The exhibition will take up three floors of the mall.