Station to Have Toilet Repaired

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- As the countdown for Saturday's launch of space shuttle Discovery began on Wednesday, a key part for the international space station -- a new pump for the toilet -- was en route from Russia, NASA officials said.

The shuttle, which is scheduled to lift off on Saturday, is packed to the brim with the Kibo laboratory, Japan's primary contribution to the $100 billion space station program, and other gear.

The station's sole toilet, housed in the Russian-built Zvezda module, which serves as the living quarters for the three-person crew, has been causing headaches for the past week.

NASA decided to fly a new pump for the potty on Discovery, even though it means leaving other equipment behind.

"Clearly having a working toilet is a priority for us," shuttle payloads manager Scott Higginbotham told reporters at the Kennedy Space Center.

The toilet's solid waste disposal is working well enough, but the urine collection system has been sporadic. The 13-kilogram pump will be installed to separate liquid from gases.

A NASA official is flying the pump from Russia to Orlando and driving it to the Kennedy Space Center. It will be packed into the shuttle on Thursday, Higginbotham said.

In addition to installing Kibo onto the station, the crew plans to work on the station's cooling system and inspect a balky joint needed to rotate a pair of the station's solar wing panels.