SpaceX Inspiration4 crew
The Inspiration4 crew’s smooth journey in space came with at least one surprise.
While orbiting the Earth in their historic all-civilian mission — which PEOPLE covered in depth from blast off to splashdown — commander Jared Isaacman and his three crew mates suddenly heard an alarm go off, CNN reported.
Isaacman, 38, told the outlet that the alarm was warning the SpaceX Dragon crew of a “significant” but unspecified issue onboard.
After SpaceX ground controllers jumped into action, it was determined that the alarm was connected to the Dragon’s “waste management system” fans, which suction human waste and keep it stored away, according to CNN.
Without the fans, astronaut waste may float out of the toilet due to the lack of gravity in space, ultimately creating a mess.
However, Isaacman has clarified that things did not reach that point: “I want to be 100% clear: There were no issues in the cabin at all as it relates to that,” he said on Thursday, per CNN.
Inspiration4 The Inspiration4 crew in the Dragon’s cupola
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“Nobody really wants to get into the gory details,” Isaacman said. “Using the bathroom in space is hard, and you’ve got to be very — what was the word? — very kind to one another… we were able to work through it and get [the toilet] going, even with what was initially challenging circumstances, so there was nothing ever like, you know, in the cabin or anything like that.”
A spokesperson at SpaceX did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
Though the Inspiration4 crew did not experience the waste dilemma, other astronauts haven’t been so lucky.
In 1969, Thomas Stafford on the Apollo 10 mission reported to mission control that a piece of waste was floating through the cabin, according to the once-confidential voice transcription of the trip.
At the time, Stafford and his team were using a plastic bag that was “taped to the buttocks” but did not control odor. NASA scientists eventually worked to find more effective and sanitary ways for astronauts to relieve themselves in space, CNN reported.
Inspiration4 The Inspiration4 crew talks to St. Jude patients during their SpaceX mission
The crew — including pilot Dr. Sian Proctor, 51, medical officer Hayley Arceneaux, 29, and mission specialist Chris Sembroski, 42 — blasted off from Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 15, going higher than anyone’s gone since the Hubble Space Telescope missions more than a decade ago.
After paying SpaceX an undisclosed amount for the flight last year, Isaacman — a billionaire who made his fortune with the payment processing company Shift4 Payments — launched a $200 million fundraising campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He donated the first $100 million, and after a $50 million donation from SpaceX founder Elon Musk, the total has exceeded $237 million.
At the end of Inspiration4’s three-day mission — which included a sweet video call with cancer patients at St. Jude — the Dragon capsule splashed down off the Florida coast on Sept. 18.
With the flight, Arceneaux — who beat cancer at St. Jude when she was 10 and now works as a physician assistant there — became the youngest American, the first pediatric cancer survivor and the first person with a prosthesis to orbit Earth.
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Dr. Proctor also made history, becoming the first Black woman to serve as a space mission pilot.
“Even before the mission, what I was looking forward to the most was talking to the St. Jude patients, and that is going to be the thing I take away the most from the mission,” Arceneaux told PEOPLE in the crew’s first interview since returning from space. “Getting to share that with the kids and show them what their future can look like was a huge honor for me.”
“This mission has been all about doing good and there’s nothing better than knowing that we could inspire these kids and give them hope,” added Proctor. “I think that eclipses everything else, even talking to my family.”
To donate to St. Jude, visit stjude.org/inspiration4.